Monday, 31 May 2010

Decline and fall

There’s an interesting article here from Jason Smith about the decline and fall of the British pub. I’m not sure I agree with everything he says – surely he exaggerates the social stratification in 1950s pubs – but broadly speaking he is right in saying that pubs have lost their social purpose. He concludes:

At the moment, pubs are over-regulated, unprofitable, sterile and – apart from selling drink – lack a function. In the light of these many problems, the only thing that is shocking about pub closures to date is that there have been so few.
I have commented before on how many pubs seem to be running on empty and are only still in existence because they have been in the past – if they didn’t exist, nobody would consider opening a pub or bar where they stand.


  1. More and more households are single person. Not everybody wants to sit in front of a computer at home. Pubs should still be popular as places to go for a chat and a drink. I stopped going because of the smoking ban, but there are plenty of non-smokers who like a drink.

  2. You see plenty of pubs that used to have houses (and therefore customers) nearby but redevelopment has removed some or all of the houses. I fear for an excellent nearby pub because of this.

  3. surely he exaggerates the social stratification in 1950s pubs

    Surely he doesn't. Read books such as Maurice Gorham's Back to the Local (1949), which makes it clear that your class dictated which door you went in through when you got to the pub, where the public bar was "the plebeian side of the pub … there are many public bars where any patron who is not too obviously dressed as a labourer is regarded with distrust", while the saloon bar is "the bar of the employers, the officials, the managing class", who drink apart from their "social inferiors in the public bar". However regrettable many of the changes that have happened to the pub in the past 60 years, at least we've got rid of THAT nonsense.

  4. Martyn, I was thinking more of this comment:

    It was not very long ago that even a small pub consisted of four or even five different rooms: A bar and a lounge, with which we are still familiar; a snug; a G.O. (gentlemen only); the smoke; and often a games room and a separate outdoor for off-sales.

    I know most pubs used to have a public bar and lounge (after all I am 51 later this month) but didn't think it went much further than that. My local pub in fact still has an entirely separate vault, which I have never been in despite having been a regular visitor for 25 years.

    Perhaps I may make a post in the future about how the "democratisation" of pubs has, in some cases, led to the public bar trade taking over and spoiling the lounge.


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