During the same period, many pubs installed upholstered “leatherette” fixed seating, often superseding plain wooden benches, which had exactly the same effect when the temperature rose and the place was packed with sweaty bodies. In the 80s, as with the car market, there seemed to be a swing against this, with more comfortable and breathable cloth seat coverings often replacing vinyl. At the time, it was seen as giving a more up-market impression.
However, more recently, the tide seems to have turned, with many recent refurbishments ditching the velour and moquette in favour of a return to plasticky “leatherette”. I suppose there are benefits in that it is more durable and easier to clean, but it seems to be part of the vogue for giving pubs a “harder” appearance that goes against the earlier trend towards being cosy and comfy. Replacing carpets with bare boards is much the same.
And, when the weather gets a bit warm and airless, the effect on human flesh through cloth is exactly the same is it used to be, making the experience of going to the pub a bit tacky and uncomfortable. It’s designer vision being put ahead of customer convenience. Nobody’s going to walk out of a pub because it has vinyl rather than cloth seating, but, like removing beermats, it’s yet another of those little niggly annoyances.
I’ve just been out for a lunchtime pint in a pub that very much does still have cloth rather than vinyl upholstery. I’ll have to start making a note of which pubs have which.