The January issue of the CAMRA newspaper What’s Brewing contains another puff piece about the supposed imminent “micropub revolution”, quoting extensively from Martin Hiller who claims to have invented the concept. He reckons that the clearing out of the dead wood by the major pub operators will open up great opportunities for micropubs to thrive, and that we could eventually see tens of thousands of them.
Now, that would be very nice to see, and it would certainly open up the prospects for pubhunting which seems to have been going round in ever decreasing circles in recent years. However, as I wrote here, given that the biggest decline in pubs over the past couple of decades has been in small, traditional, wet-led, drink-and-chat establishments, it is hard to see how pubs following that kind of model are going to spearhead a revolution in pubgoing. Indeed, their widely-proclaimed ethos of “no lager, no wine, no music, no soft drinks, no food” is likely to severely limit their appeal in terms of both generational profile and gender balance. They give the impression of being specifically designed to appeal to retired middle-class blokes with too much time on their hands.
What we have seen in recent years is a large number of new “box bars” opening up in former shop units, which could be regarded as fulfilling a similar role to micropubs. However, although there are some exceptions such as those in Chorlton, most of these appeal primarily to a youth or young professional clientele and offer nothing of interest to the beer enthusiast. I also get the feeling that, while a pub is by definition a “public house” and should be open to all so long as they behave themselves, you need to be part of a clique or set to feel at home in a box bar.