Sunday, 4 May 2014

One man's meat

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.


  1. Get over yourselves and learn to live with it.

    And that concludes the Pub Curmudgeon's contribution to Women In Pubs Week.

    Seriously, I know it's not the angle you want to pursue (and it's your blog!), but I really think gender is a much bigger issue than social class in this discussion.

  2. You're forcing your own agenda on it there, Phil.

    In fact one point I ended up deleting from the final version was "and you'll probably find most of these supposedly female-unfriendly pubs have plenty of female customers".

    And why is it seen as so desirable that solitary female customers should be welcomed in pubs when solitary male customers are dismissed as saddo losers?

  3. Be honest Mudgie the majority of
    pus have become the last haven
    for saddos,loners,freaks and unloved tarts.There are exceptions ,of course ,usually frequented by well mannered ,well spoken ,boring mutants.

    PS A well known large FREE HOUSE
    popular with of duty teachers and social workers in Ashton u Lyne,Greater Manchester
    (THE WITCHWOOD) claimed by its fans to be immune to the SMOKING BAN SALE
    Naturaly the local SPOONS will be delighted

    Nick O'Teen

  4. I see plenty of old blokes drinking in brewdog bars. Staff are very non judgemental, perhaps a more inclusive atmosphere than anywhere else

  5. I certainly don't dismiss lone male drinkers as saddo losers, not least because 19 times out of 20 I'm a lone male drinker myself! I think making pubs a less offputting environment for lone female drinkers would be a very good idea, for the simple reason that I could have been born female & assume I would still have liked beer.

  6. But it has to be recognised that women are different from men, and one of the key points of difference is that women are much less likely to have solitary, obsessive interests. So they're less likely to be trainspotters, less likely to be beer anoraks, and less likely to want to go to the pub on their own.

    I honestly don't think that the vast majority of the pubs I visit are in any way female-unfriendly, it's just that women just aren't interested in going there on their own. I could point to large numbers of pubs that have numerous female customers, often in all-female groups.

  7. crikey, you're milking this one.

    Bullying occurs in many environments, from schools to work places. It's nasty and should not happen but all attempts to stop it don't really work. Inadequate people need to make others feel bad in order to feel good. It's human nature.

    I'm a believer in the give a bully a bitch slap approach, which tends to be frowned on these days.

    Sadly though, not everywhere is going to be welcoming to everyone. Humanity is tribal and the tribes need their own club houses. You've gotta know what tribe you belong to.

  8. Late to the party, but I do not think this post is milking it at all.

    Since the smoking ban, pubs seem to have become homogenous, catering only for a certain type of customer -- and not the one who frequented pubs before July 1, 2007. Smokers constituted 65% of pub patrons according to a Marketing Week survey published that summer.

    That leaves me and my better half at home.



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