Saturday, 11 May 2019

The three-pint window

Yesterday I wrote about how there was a fundamental limitation to the extent to which pubs could diversify their offer to attract non-drinkers. Whatever else happens in a pub, drinking alcohol always remains their core purpose, and if it isn’t, they’re no longer pubs.

Although I wasn’t aware of it when I wrote my post, Manchester journalist Tony Naylor has written an article in the Guardian along much the same theme. He was prompted by the opening in Dublin of a “pub” that only serves non-alcoholic drinks. One or two have described the tone of his piece as a touch panicky and defensive, but I would say it rings very true, and those who champion pubs need to be less apologetic about what they’re actually there for.

Of the Irish pub, he wrote:

“Can you lose the booze and keep the craic?” asked the Irish Times rhetorically, to which the only conceivable answer is: no. A fact that, despite reports of the Virgin Mary aiming for a “pub vibe”, Yates implicitly conceded when he told the Guardian: “By 10 o’clock in a [traditional] bar it’s very loud; there can be noise and chaos. Here you can still be having a conversation and still be making sense.”
He also describes how the pub trade has, in reality, taken numerous steps to broaden its offer:
At the same time, the pub trade has proved itself nimble in embracing a world beyond pints. Food has become central to the survival of many pubs, while others host endless activities – comedy and film clubs, mums’n’toddlers’ coffee mornings, psychic nights, karaoke – where alcohol is incidental to your visit, rather than the main draw. Landlords are acutely aware that they cannot survive by serving dwindling numbers of hard-drinking regulars.
However, all these activities only take place on the coat-tails of drinking. Take that away, and the pub becomes a restaurant, a community centre, a coffee shop or a music club. And he sums up very well the essence of what makes pubs special:
Beyond loving the taste of beer, I also love the effects of alcohol, and for what it can do to a pub. I cherish that three-pint window where real life melts away. I love the warmth, the laughter, the life, the random, nonsensical conversations and soft-edged, jovial chaos of full pubs at peak hours. I like the din. I like the revelry. I like a bit of noise and chaos, frankly. And I like the sense of drinkers of often very different backgrounds rubbing along in mutual intoxicated tolerance. In an increasingly atomised society, there is value in that.
Non-drinkers may get a taste of that experience vicariously, but they will never truly live it. However, he concludes:
Could people who aren’t drinking (much) even enjoy that atmosphere, too? Interestingly, according to Nescafé, 77% of supposedly abstemious Generation Z-ers still visit their favourite pub more than once a month. Pubs remain hugely attractive spaces and, undeniably, booze is crucial to their appeal. Cheers to that.

12 comments:

  1. I'd assumed your last article was a response to the dry "pub" story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I honestly hadn't seen it - it was a response to the coffee-sponsored Morning Advertiser piece about how to attract non-drinkers to your pub.

      Delete
  2. There's very little new under the sun.

    If this alcohol-free pub idea was even remotely sustainable, surely many of the Victorian Temperance Halls would've survived?

    They didn't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Stafford Mudgie11 May 2019 at 21:51

      Yes, and every ten years since Whitbread launched their White Label we keep hearing that NabLabs are going to sell in large volumes but they don't

      Delete
  3. Facts have to be faced. The historically blithe, cheerful, English disposition is in part probably down to the effects of ale, not just on individuals, but on the collective mentality. It is a central part of the nation's culture.

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    Replies
    1. Many of the oddities in British history make more sense when you realise that serfs received several pints of small beer per day as part of their wage.

      Delete
    2. The Stafford Mudgie14 May 2019 at 13:54

      DCBW,
      And there might not have been much wrong with that sort of 'cashless society'.
      If they had been paid in proper money they would could have spent it unwisely.

      Delete
  4. They did survive. They are called coffee shops & are more popular than pubs.

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    Replies
    1. Coffee Shop Starbucks still serve wine and beer and Costa Coffee are trailing the idea.

      Delete
  5. The Stafford Mudgie12 May 2019 at 19:41

    I don't know of any Temperance Halls that survived much after Victorian times and Fitzpatrick's Herbal Health in Rawtenstall, which bears no resemblance to the many recently opened high street coffee shops, is thought to be the last original temperance bar.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There is nothing more unwelcoming and sad than a pub with no beer. BTW, there has been archaeological evidence uncovered during the new A14 development of brewing 4000 years ago.

    ReplyDelete

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