Tuesday 26 February 2008

So much for conventional wisdom

Interesting to see a couple of articles in the press debunking two widely-held but erroneous beliefs:

Healthy people place biggest burden on state

The brightest are the heaviest drinkers

An epidemic of nonsense

There was an excellent article in the Telegraph recently in which Charles Moore took a very sober and sceptical look at the current hysteria about the alleged ‘epidemic’ of binge-drinking.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Bastions of tradition

In February’s Opening Times column I commented on the increasing rarity of finding a cosy, traditional pub offering a welcome to all comers that was ticking over nicely. However, they are still out there and it is very gratifying to find yourself in a pub where that kind of atmosphere prevails, as I did on two occasions over the past weekend. One of the keys to this is getting the balance right between food and wet trade. In most locations, a pub that serves no food at all will limit its appeal purely to locals and regulars, but one that is wall-to-wall diners will be devoid of any pub character.

A cause for concern, though, is that the mainstream customers of pubs seem to be getting older and older. I’m in my late forties and often in a proper pub have found myself amongst the younger customers. The next generation just don’t seem to have got into the habit of regular social pubgoing and this has worrying implications for the long-term survival of pubs.

Monday 4 February 2008

Benches pressed

Yet another local pub - the Plough in Heaton Moor - has recently been refurbished and had all the remaining bench seating stripped out in favour of free-standing chairs and tables. I’ve commented on several occasions in Opening Times how this makes interiors less pubby and sociable, and I’m at a loss to understand why designers insist on doing it. The only conclusion I can reach is that they are aiming for an ambiance that is more “restaurant” than “pub”. I have to say that all of my favourite regularly-visited pubs feature extensive bench seating.

Friday 1 February 2008

Worse than Iraq?

This week’s Spectator features one of the most coruscating attacks on the smoking ban I’ve yet seen from the ever-outspoken Rod Liddle. Make no mistake, this issue is not going away. Not sure I totally agree with him on the Iraq war, though.

Of course, one shouldn’t drop a policy simply because the pubs are having a rather hard time of it as a result. But in which case, don’t bother to pretend that they’re not, that actually there are queues all down the street consisting of shiny, happy people who wish nothing more than to drink in a new, healthy, smoke-free environment. Stop lying. Say, instead, that the smoke ban is putting pubs out of business but actually we couldn’t give a toss.