In the small town where I live, we are in danger of losing yet another of our local hostelries, which will leave us with a total of seven down from 11. Those that are left are clearly struggling.
Most do not (or cannot) open at lunchtime and they often have no more than a handful of customers on the average midweek evening.
They are clearly not sustainable as a viable business.
The saddest thing is when a village loses it’s one and only pub, thus losing the main/only social centre and changing the social fabric of that village for ever.
Over the last 30 years or so, organisations such as CAMRA have done a wonderful job in increasing the choice and availability of good-tasting real ales, but worryingly that fight now seems to be becoming a losing battle.
So why is it happening?
Clearly tougher drink/drive legislation and enforcement laws are generally to be welcomed, but they really only affect the more rural pubs and one would have thought that this would actually have a beneficial effect on footfall in the local, walkable to, community pub, but this doesn’t seem to have happened.
Similarly, the puritanical approach by successive governments and health organisations, who seemingly want to turn Britain into a teetotal nation with their recommendations regarding minimum pricing, number of ‘safe’ units, restricted hours etc. might be given as a reason for us all drinking less. Clearly we are drinking far more than the recommended maximum limit of 14 units per week. Just not in the pub. It’s far easier, and cheaper, just to buy your booze as part of your weekly supermarket shop and drink it at home.
Perhaps we should look at the reasons why we go to the pub in the first place, and equally importantly, what keeps us out of the pub. Pubs have always been convivial places where one can go for a chat. In the old days, when we only had two or three TV channels, no tablets, home computers, XBoxes etc. this form of alternate entertainment was quite adequate, even welcome.
It is certainly more expensive to drink out these days, which is clearly one of the main reasons why we do more of our drinking behind closed doors. I well remember, post-decimalisation day in February 1971, the outcry in my local when the price of a pint was ‘rounded up’ to 10p.
One welcome trend in recent years is the opening up of so-called ‘micro-pubs’ in various high street premises. These establishments offer all of the positive attributes of the thriving, traditional pub and it is somewhat ironic that such outlets are cropping up to replace the pubs further down the road which have closed down.
In conclusion, the traditional British pub is in decline and, like the NHS, needs to be cherished and supported. Just for once, ignore that bottle of wine or beer in the fridge, stop worrying about exceeding those 14 units a week and pay your local a visit. Do it quickly though, before it closes, possibly forever. Remember, a pub is for life, not just for Christmas!