Of course, in the present day, most pubs depend to a greater or lesser extent on serving food, and plenty major on it. In itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve eaten hundreds if not thousands of meals and snacks in pubs over the years. But a line is crossed when a pub becomes so focused on food that it completely forgets the original core purpose of pubs, for people to meet and socialise over a few drinks..
It’s hard to say exactly where that line is drawn, but to my mind pubs that have a greeter on the door asking whether you will be dining, and that have all tables furnished with place settings, have undoubtedly crossed it. On the other hand, many of the modern new-build “family dining” pubs, such as the Flying Horse near Manchester Airport, do have an area with pool table and TV sports where it’s clear drinkers are welcome.
It does increasingly seem to be the case, though, that there are establishments that still trade under the name of pubs, but which deliberately make anyone just wanting a drink – or even just a drink and a sandwich – feel unwelcome and out of place. I really object to walking into somewhere and being made to feel like something the cat has dragged in. And I’m a white, middle-class bloke. They have become, in effect, pub-themed restaurants, or PINOs – Pubs in Name Only. I’m not talking about places that won’t serve drinkers, full stop, but those where all the cues indicate they’re not really wanted.
Sadly, some of these places manage to creep into the Good Beer Guide, as Martin Taylor and Simon Everitt have sometimes found in their GBG-ticking travels. So I thought I would create a poll on the subject. The results aren’t overwhelming, but a clear majority of 55% voted in favour of such places being given a different designation from “pub”. Perhaps there’s a need for a “Keg Buster” test before anywhere gets in, i.e. old bloke in cap and muffler gets served a pint without demur.
Of course food is an important part of the pub offer nowadays. But if I can’t go into an establishment, walk up to the bar, order a pint, and plonk myself down into a nearby seat, without anyone batting an eyelid, then really it isn’t a pub.