Sunday, 21 August 2011

Decline and fall

A year ago today, I started a blog entitled Closed Pubs. This was originally prompted by a non-beer-related forum, where people were invited to put forward some interesting sights in the then new Google StreetView. I posted a couple of views of boarded-up pubs near to me, and then thought that, since there were so many closed pubs around the country, I could turn it into a blog. So I did.

So far I have featured 207 pubs. Some are ones known to me, some suggested by correspondents, some I have spotted on Internet searches. It has featured town-centre pubs, inner-city pubs, suburban pubs, estate pubs, classic roadhouses, village pubs, isolated country pubs, indeed pretty much every kind of pub known to man. I’d like to record my thanks to those who have e-mailed me with suggestions for the blog.

There can be no doubt that over the past few years the British pub has experienced an unprecedented holocaust. Before then, unless it was due to population decline in the locality or redevelopment, pubs scarcely ever closed. But now, it seems that pretty much everywhere you go you are confronted with the depressing sight of a closed and boarded pub.

I don’t for a minute claim that all of it is due to the smoking ban – indeed some of the closed pubs pictured predate the smoking ban by many years. But only the most self-deluding antismoker would claim that the smoking ban has not played a significant part in pub closures over the past four years. For a lot of pubs it seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And the question has to be asked whether this is an “adjustment” which will lead to the pub trade stabilising at a lower level, or whether it is the sign of an inexorable long-term decline that in a generation will reduce pubs to a tiny, irrelevant rump. Yes, some pubs are still thriving, but many of those that are still open are noticeably much less busy than they once were.

The pub illustrated, The Beeches in Northfield, Birmingham, is maybe the saddest of the lot, its mock-Jacobean magnificence, almost like a licensed stately home, contrasting poignantly with its current burnt-out dereliction. It wouldn’t surprise me if it had now been demolished.

4 comments:

  1. It really is so sad. That so many of these once thriving establishments, both town and country, are in a state of seemingly terminal decline.

    And you're right, insofar as it's not only the smoking ban that is the cause, although as you say, that has exacerbated the situation considerably. It's also got little to do with supermarket prices or the economy. It is the wider push by the New Puritan movement to make people feel guilty about enjoying themselves.

    "There is no safe level of alcohol", "There is no safe level of secondhand smoke", "Food / drink that actually tastes good is bad for you (too salty / fatty / high in cholesterol etc)", and so it goes on. It's no wonder people aren't going to pubs anymore. In the not too distant future, they will stand a very good chance of Social Services taking their kids away because they are "irresponsible", and not looking after the needs of the cheeeeldren, setting a bad example etc (as in your latest post - we are very close now).

    People have been so utterly brainwashed by the MSM about the perceived dangers of drinking, smoking etc that they're paranoid about even going to the pub anymore. Until these ASH / Alcohol Concern charlatans are routed, I see a continuing decline in the pub scene. I sincerely hope that they are exposed for the shamanistic doomsayers that they are before they manage to completely decimate the UK pub scene.

    Because when it's gone, it's gone. We will never see the like of it again.

    Such Philistines...

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  2. Yes, it's a point I've made before, that the more drinking is stigmatised, the more it will retreat from pubs and bars into the private sphere. People won't want to be seen doing it in public.

    It brings to mind this post from last year, where I quoted from Mark Dredge:

    "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?"

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  3. I think we can all agree that the number of pubs closing is tragic. However, down here in Bristol, the situation is considerably different to that in the North of England. We have had a number of pub closures but many of these have been dying for years, even before the smoking ban. Typically they are on deprived council estates where money is tight and cheap supermarket beer seems a better option.
    However, many of the other pubs which have closed are now re-opening, not necessarily as food-led places but overwhelmingly as real ale specialists. I was going to put a link in to the current edition of the local CAMRA mag, Pints West, which covers some of this, but it's not online yet (Google it in a bit)
    I know many of the people who are taking these pubs on, either personally or by reputation, and they are not pie-in-the-sky Pollyannas but hard-headed business people. I think it's a bit premature to write pubs off yet.

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  4. I believe a big problem is entertainment. How much did I hear it cost an average sized pub for Sky Sports per year? £16,000? Disco DJ's wont work for anythig less than £100 per night (for a few hours work). Cheap supermarket alchol must also be a nail in the coffin.

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