It’s always good to see a pub so busy it’s standing room only, but very often a visit is more rewarding at a quieter time when you have a choice of where to sit and can get served swiftly at the bar. You can have a relaxing, contemplative drink and watch the world go by secure in the knowledge that on Friday night it will be heaving.
However, it’s one thing for a pub to be a bit quiet, but something else entirely for it to be pretty much devoid of customers. I wrote recently about calling in a prominent, classic Holt’s pub at a time when once it would have been fairly busy, and finding only about five customers in a building that could easily have accommodated thirty times that number without feeling packed.
As blog readers will realise, I’m probably more interested in seeking out new and unfamiliar pubs than new beers, but sometimes it feels like intruding on private grief. Not so long ago I visited a pub that had been on my list for a while. It used to be in the Good Beer Guide but has dropped out in the past couple of years; however, there’s nothing obviously wrong with it, with three cask beers on the bar, a comfortable, rambling interior and A-boards outside advertising a varied food menu. Yet, once a guy sat at the bar had departed, I was the sole customer. Frankly, it’s embarrassing, and is likely to deter you from visiting again, or from recommending the pub to others. It’s even worse than dining alone in a restaurant because in a pub you’re looking for at least a little social buzz. It’s not as if there are other pubs nearby to which all the customers have decamped because in neither case do I reckon that applies.
I satirised this in the description of my visit to the Feltcombers’ Arms at Arkwright’s Hillock, but many a true word is said in jest. And, if even apparently attractive and welcoming pubs are deserted at times when surely twenty or even ten years ago they would have been doing decent business, then you have to think there is much more pain to come in terms of pub closures.