The questions of harassment and pub customers being made to feel uncomfortable that I referred to in my previous post raise a wider issue. In recent years there seems to have been a growing tendency to believe that people have a right not to be offended, and that they can decide for themselves what is and isn’t offensive, something that if taken to its logical conclusion is likely to be extremely corrosive of free speech and to reduce all social discourse to the bland and anodyne. The potential consequences for pubs are all too obvious. Even now, you very often hear pubs in general criticised for supposedly being unwelcoming to particular classes of customer.
In my early drinking days, it was always accepted that different pubs had their own individual type of clientele, and there were some that it would be best to avoid because you wouldn’t fit in. Many were unrepentantly working class, some were distinctly snobby, some were favoured by young people, others by pensioners, some were gay pubs and didn’t like straights. It was just a fact of life. Sometimes you might even cautiously venture on to “enemy territory” to sample a rare beer. But if you didn’t like it, you went somewhere else that was more congenial.
It has also always been the case that pubs have been rumbustious, slightly anarchic places where an element of misrule applies and the normal strictures of respectable behaviour are loosened. They are never going to be tabernacles of political correctness, and if you take offence at the occasional off-colour remark that is your problem, not the pub’s. It makes you come across as a pathetic wilting violet. “I went in this rough pub, and it was full of rough men saying rough things!”
This crusade all too often comes across as a movement to make pubs safe for Guardian readers whereas, in the main, they are much more Sun reader kind of places. Many of the complainers simply seem to have a revulsion towards the English working class. Basically, they don’t really like pubs very much and want to see them stripped of their distinctive character and turned into something else.
It cuts both ways, too. All too often, the people who make a big play of how tolerant and inclusive they are usually turn out to have their own out-groups whom they regard with contempt and are all too willing to insult – smokers for a start. And, if he misses the obvious cues and dares to venture over the threshold, just imagine the reaction in the BrewDog bar to the old bloke who goes in and asks for a pint of bitter. He will be made to feel like something the cat has dragged in. He’s unlikely to find a comfy seat either.
Nobody is forced to go in a pub, and not all pubs will suit everyone. Get over yourselves and learn to live with it.