Friday, 15 August 2014

Time to revive pub-lic life

Looks like someone's been reading this blog...

Without a vibrant public sphere, what need is there for the public house? In the eyes of the state, pubs are places where all kinds of unacceptable behaviour take place – and therefore they must be strictly controlled. Binge drinking is defined by the NHS as consuming more than eight units of alcohol for a man (fewer than three pints of lager) and six units for a woman (two pints of lager). This means that on any given night, the vast majority of people sitting in pubs across the UK are doing something the state does not approve of.

The state has been on an all-out assault on peoples’ perceived vices for a long time. Despite UK chancellor George Osborne cutting the duty on beer by a token 1p in two consecutive budgets, it will take inflation some time to catch up with the price of a pint. Indeed, between 2008 and 2012, prices rose by 42 per cent – the result of an ‘escalator’ sin tax. Other intrusions, such as the smoking ban, have also made pubs less desirable to hang out in. Young people, too, are drinking less than ever before, and when they do drink it is unlikely to be in pubs, thanks to overzealous enforcement of underage drinking laws and government-funded campaigns like ‘Challenge 25’.

It is difficult to know how to rejuvenate the pub. But for the likes of CAMRA to call on the state to come to pubs’ aid is counter-intuitive and absurd. The underlying societal issues behind the decline of the pub are hard to tackle, but we could start by scrapping the smoking ban, beer duties and anti-drinking campaigns, and stop the demonisation of young drinkers. Then, perhaps, people might come out from behind their laptops and go out for a drink. And that could only have a positive effect on public life as a whole.

It’s certainly true to say that more regulation never revived anything.


  1. A sad lament
    160 years ago the Irish who had dug the canals and built the railroads to the east of Manchester settled down rather than return to the famines and poverty of their homeland
    The pubs and clubs did not exactly welcome these newcomers so
    they built thmselves a clubhouse,
    a meeting place where all were welcome,rich and poor ,catholic and protestant,English,Welsh and Scots. Though depressions,recessions,mill closures and world wars the club
    thrived and survived
    When the commitee members read the Labour Manifesto (2005)exemptig clubs from a proposed smoking ban they fully supported the proposal
    Sadly as we now know, the Labour Party did not keep it's word and included the clubs as well
    So after 160 years the club lost
    many members and went bang
    Today I walked past it with fond memories ,it is now being converted into an Asian owned off license So to all those having a drink tonight in some insular trough,to all the apologists,to all the excuse mongers, cheers
    and may providence repay you soon.

  2. why's it time now all of a sudden?

    why not last week or even next week?

    I like it behind my laptop, seems safer.

  3. "Time" at 20:02? A frightening thought, CL.

  4. What is so sad about the demise of the pub is not those who do not use pubs nor those who despise them, it is those who still use them and think everything is Ok
    The surviving pubs have become parasites and vultures eagerly
    scavenging the leftovers from nearby closures,welcoming the morsels from the derelict failures.The pub culture allways
    had it's enemies, now it can add
    the many who see the pub as a retreat for the apathetic and

  5. Mudgie, wanna read some depressing opinions on traditional pubs?

    Here's what students think of them:
    "I blame the refusal and incapability to engage with younger drinkers and women. The smoking ban was a huge blow to the traditional pub though.

    Also If they want want to sell beer to a market that is under 50yo and females included, cask real ale is no good. The majority of younger audiences and women just don't like flat, warm, weak beer ( like the rest of the world). As for the struggling pubs that only sell mainstream lagers like Carlsberg and Carling in a dingy old pub with nothing but Sky Sports and a crappy fruit machine for entertainment; they deserve to go down. For the pub industry to emphasise survival and not make the effort to attract young people is absolutely silly."

    "A few times I've gone to traditional pubs on recommendations from people at work or sometimes from reviews on the internet, and found them cliquey and unwelcoming.

    I think the traditional British pub has a core audience, local men, many of whom have been going for years, and want to socialise with the same group. It's not really about meeting other people which is what most younger people want to do.

    Traditional pubs rely on their core audience and its a small market and probably declining so obviously they aren't that profitable. "

    "I equate 'traditional pub' with that dingy smoke filled rancid smelling and clapped out looking dark cave filled with dirty old alcoholics and literally nothing of any value to attract customers to the place, and that's how the few regular clientèle + dinosaur landlord/lady wanna keep it."

    "Atomised neoliberal British society is not a good place for community-oriented pubs. That's what pubs were about for the previous generations. Community. Getting somewhere warm. Escaping from the wife on her bad days.

    We don't need that anymore."

    "Myself I don't give a **** about Camra or 'Real Ale' enthusiasts to be honest. They're all out of touch with the rest of the population. If it was up to them the only thing we'd serve in the UK is piss weak golden and mild ales.

    In my opinion sometimes we need to let go of nostalgia and move on."

  6. @py - when I was a student, in the era of Small is Beautiful, The Good Life and railway preservation, the old-fashioned, individualistic and quirky were regarded as things well worth seeking out even if they weren't obviously "user-friendly". We would make pilgrimages out to the Black Country to go in the Old Swan and little Batham's, Holden's and Simpkiss pubs.

    It seems that today's students are more interested in a version of Byron Hamburger with a bar.


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