Charles Clover has an article in today’s Sunday Times entitled Save the pub or let it die? It’s your shout. At least he recognises that there are other reasons for the relative decline of the pub trade beyond the simplistic one of cheap supermarket prices:
Our vicar tells me there were six pubs in the village in 1917. Why is it that we lost only one pub between 1917 and 1997 but have lost three since then? That, we must assume, is caused by recent trends, chief of them drinking at home. We choose to take home our cheap supermarket booze and drink it watching a DVD. Then there are the drink-driving laws and more recently the laws on smoking (which inadvertently put a pub’s least attractive clientele out on the street in front of you in most weathers, a good reason to drive by).However, I doubt whether smokers will be happy to be described as “a pub’s least attractive clientele”. And his prescription for revival seems distinctly wishy-washy:
Our family went on an impromptu pub crawl with friends just after the new year, partly to introduce our teenagers to each other, partly to sample the local pubs while they were still there. What began as nostalgic recreation of our student days and a bit of bravado made a strong impression on the teenagers. They met local people of different ages whom they would not otherwise have met. They were fascinated by the different atmospheres and architecture, even of the naff ones. We all drank responsibly.I hardly think a few well-meaning middle class people going to the pub slightly more often (a resolution that is unlikely to last beyond Easter anyway) is going to make a ha’p’orth of difference when, as I have posted before, the decline of pubs has been driven by widespread trends in society, of which relative price is by no means the most significant. Making off-trade alcohol more expensive won’t give people a single extra penny to spend in pubs.
The adults vowed to go out for a pint more often.
As a nation, we have the choice. A crackdown on supermarkets advertising cheap alcohol, coupled with lower tax for weaker beer — favoured by both the health select committee and Camra, the real ale campaign — could even now turn back the clock and draw people to more civilised drinking, down the pub.
And the weaker beers he is referring to are not those of ordinary bitter strength of 3.5 – 4.0% ABV, but those below 2.8% ABV, for which realistically there is no demand. You could sell it for 50p a pint and it wouldn’t save a single pub.