Monday, 10 May 2010

A realm of misbehaviour

Anyone who thought the beer blogosphere was getting a bit stale needs to read this superb post by Mark Dredge on Pencil and Spoon entitled RIP: the Pub. As I’ve mentioned in the comments, it bears a number of similarities to a piece I wrote a few years ago called The Death of the English Pub. He sums up the attitude to pubgoing of a twentysomething beer enthusiast and his cohort extremely well – a generation younger than me which seems to have got out of the habit of regular pub visits.

I was struck by this particular paragraph:

Going into a local after work - at least where I am, away from a big city and in a small town - feels more wrong than right, more anti-social than social. The chaps at the bar have been there too long, it’s almost empty, it’s a realm of misbehaviour - drinking is bad for you, didn’t you know? And walk into a local pub and take a look around – there won’t be many people in their early 20s just sitting there and enjoying a beer. Call me bigoted, but if there are some then they aren’t likely to be the sort of guys who you’d feel comfortable socialising with, are they?
This sums up something that I had been mulling over, that going to the pub, just for a drink, away from the obvious weekend busy times, has over the past ten or fifteen years has become somehow less respectable than it used to be. The respectable pubs of my youth have now become dining pubs, and where proper pubs do survive, all too often you go in them and find them dominated by a slightly seedy all-male drinking school clustering around the bar, with very few other customers.

This may not chime with everyone’s experience, but I’m just reporting what I’ve encountered. It seems that regular pubgoing is becoming no longer socially acceptable.

15 comments:

  1. "It seems that regular pubgoing is becoming no longer socially acceptable."

    In some pubs, some places and some people, possibly, but I see what you are driving at.

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  2. Social changes can't be underestimated in the demise of the pub. Smoking might be a factor but there are many other reasons why us youngsters don't head down the local Monday to Thursday. Attitudes are very different now, although people's needs must be the same, so they must be fulfilling them some way or some where else?

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  3. Keeping a decent house was once a respectful profession, worthy of a decent income. A very decent income sometimes.

    Now I don't know for sure if the average income of a publican has lowered in the last couple of decades but I'm willing to bet it has. 50% of the UK pubs are leased, owned by the big two pubco's. There's some great pubs amongst them - with leaseholders earning a decent living. But they're in the minority these days.

    If you take the money out of an industry, the brains leave too. And so that's a big reason the pub industry is in demise.

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  4. I don't get to the pub as often as I used to, but I don't have as much time nowadays. I haven't noticed myself feeling any less respectable when I do go to pubs though, but then I was never very respectable anyway!

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  5. Three types of pub in my town,
    boarded up,near empty or worst of
    all ,half full of deviants,dickheads and non smoking
    still lifes.

    Some decent pubs have become
    cackholes because the landlords have had to attract the scumbags
    to stay alive

    And we still have total dipsticks who wont admit the main reason
    for the dramatic change in the pub
    culture.or maybe not allowed to.

    Pubs,Not fit for purpose.
    Cheers

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  6. If we look at Ireland whose smoking ban came in March 2004, as a catalyst it started off a chain of events that so far have closed 1 in every 3 pubs.

    From again my experience of the smoking ban government intervention falls into two areas on social attitudes. Some people are "good citizens" in that if some grey suit tells them to behave in a certain way, they do it. The other group of people are like me, bloody minded who do the opposite of what the government tells them to do.

    There is no doubt that Labour's portrayal of pubs as dens of drunken violence, to be fair in some cases real in city centres, has added a few more straws onto the camel's back, leading to further withdrawal of custom.

    Sorry to bang on, but my street survey in London when the weather warmed saw local pubs where I live suddenly have their outside tables fill up with drinkers with packets of Marlboro and Golden Virginia in evidence.

    My local Wetherspoons in Leytonstone, yes I was pedantic enough to count increased its custom by 10% to a local pub in Hackney/Clapton by 200%. There were 15 people inside 30 people outside. Also just to emphasise the point most of the customers sitting outside, with an average of 4 people per table, I saw generally only one packet per table, some had two suggesting the smoker was the motivator to go down the pub.

    Not too scientific but I hope indicative.

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  7. To be honest, I think the phenomenon I describe is not really connected with the smoking ban and has more to do with changing public attitudes to drinking.

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  8. Personally, I wondered if Young Dredgie was listening to Joy Division over the weekend...

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  9. "a slightly seedy all-male drinking school clustering around the bar"

    Wasn't that what pubs were always like?

    (From a slightly seedy all-male drinker, frequently at the bar.)

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  10. (I posted this at Tandie's - thought your readers might like to see it too. I'd be interested to know what you think, Mudgie, about the profile of the young ale drinker who, if Pete Brown's Cask Report is to be believed, is a more prevalent beast than in many a year).

    Sorry to be dull here - I think part of it is not wanting to get fat.

    I have a desk job. If I had a couple of pints after work, I'd be consuming c.2,500 calories in beer alone over my working week. That's a whole day's extra calories. I'd need to go to the gym a helluva lot to work that off - and that would be time not spent in the pub, so the equation collapses - best just not to bother in the first place.

    Consideration of my liver/govt health warnings doesn't come into it.

    This is also, I'd conjecture, part of the reason for higher-strength craft beer succeeding. Rather than having a calorie-bomb of five pints, just two bottles of 7% beer can deliver a nice fuzzy feeling and you don't feel you've ruined all the work on the treadmill.

    In addition, I *do* have a local, but it's a pub the other side of Cambridge from where I live. Like most people these days, I don't work round the corner and my pub is not 'on the way home'.

    When you see people nipping into a pub after work they are, as Mark says, usually managed places where the staff turnover and customer indifference are such as to neutralise any hope of a 'community' feel, regardless of how well the beer is kept and the place maintained.

    Where I feel Mark may have a point going forward is that people socialise differently thanks to social networking. Whereas in the past you'd go to the pub for a drink on the offchance of bumping into local characters, there is no need for such serendipitous socialising these days.

    It is notable in some very well-run pubs in Cambridge that, for all the excellent and friendly service of staff, there is no community feel because groups of pals have arranged to meet on facebook, or by calling a mate courtesy of the mobile, and are there to talk to those pals - not to the other groups of people around them.

    Will that change as these people hit their 30s and 40s? I doubt it. Quite a lot has been written about social segregation with regard to politics in the US - how radio talk shows, facebook and twitter and the like create bubbles into which the outside world cannot creep (i.e. I literally don't know *anyone* who voted for Boris Johnson to become mayor of London - yet more than a million people did!) Social interation suffers as the like-minded cling to the like-minded and this reinforces itself until people would take one look at the pub and ask 'why would I want to spend time with people I don't know whose values I may not share? I get enough of that at work!'

    Thanks for revisiting this. I covered some of this ground in a post yonks ago:

    http://jesusjohn.blogspot.com/2009/08/raking-over-coals.html

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  11. Brian, up to a point, yes, but you also used to see, for example, courting couples and larger mixed-sex groups in pubs drinking who are much less evident now.

    Jesusjohn, thanks for reposting that. It does suggest that Tandy's thesis that people will come round to pubs in the fullness of time may be a bit wide of the mark.

    I have to say that, when I do come across pubs functioning as proper pubs should - and they still can be found - the customers seem predominantly to be over 45.

    That does corroborate the thesis that there is a significant social change taking place that is redefining (and shrinking) the role of the pub in society.

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  12. "That does corroborate the thesis that there is a significant social change taking place that is redefining (and shrinking) the role of the pub in society."

    How so? It supports my theory that you come round to the pub as you get older, otherwise the pub goer would slowly just die out.

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  13. Umm, JJ says: "Will that change as these people hit their 30s and 40s? I doubt it."

    I think a lot of the 45+ folk I see drinking in pubs were doing the same when they were 25, but I don't see many 25-year-olds doing that.

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  14. Another interesting post with interesting comments. I like what JJ says and not getting fat is a big part of it - I guess we are also more self-aware given the lads mags, celebrity culture, etc. How many of Tandleman's mates straightened their hair and used fake tan in their 20s...?!

    Sid... Who the fuck are Joy Division?! ;)

    Some interesting comments:

    "I have to say that, when I do come across pubs functioning as proper pubs should - and they still can be found - the customers seem predominantly to be over 45.

    "That does corroborate the thesis that there is a significant social change taking place that is redefining (and shrinking) the role of the pub in society."

    ... "I think a lot of the 45+ folk I see drinking in pubs were doing the same when they were 25, but I don't see many 25-year-olds doing that."

    I agree.

    I can't see my generation turning to pubs in the way previous generations have. I might be wrong, but I can't see it now.

    After these posts I do fancy going to the pub for a couple of beers... I think I'll wait until the weekend though...

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  15. As long as the pubs are frequented and "supported" by fellow travellers,shysters,pen pushers,
    limpwristers,trotbags,middle earthers and hopspotters ,they
    will remain off limits to the
    genuine boozers. Take Gtr Manchester for example,try finding
    a pub full of normals,you've more
    chance of finding a plack pudding at a Bar Mitzvah


    Happy Hippy Hopper

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