Since the late 1970s, the amount of beer drunk in the on-trade in Britain has more than halved from 37 million bulk barrels a year to 17 million. This is often laid at the door of the ever-increasing price gap between the on and off-trades. While there is a certain amount of truth in that, it certainly doesn’t stand up as the sole cause, and in reality there are much wider and more diverse social factors at work.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the reasons why people visit pubs less:
- The decline of heavy industry, meaning that there are far fewer manual workers for whom going in the pub every night and drinking numerous pints is a way of life.
- The smoking ban. Obviously. That, at a stroke, probably removed at least 10% of the wet trade from pubs.
- The trend away from beer towards wine. Historically, pubs have done wine very poorly and in any case it is something generally drunk with a meal rather than simply during a drinking session.
- The increase in eating out, which tends to replace simple drinking sessions and is often not done in pubs.
- There is a much wider and more interesting range of drinks available in the off-trade than there was thirty years ago, whereas, unless you're a cask beer fan, the range of drinks in most pubs can be somewhat limited.
- Mass car ownership, meaning that taking loads of cans or bottles home is a more practical proposition than it used to be.
- The erosion of traditional gender roles, meaning that it is no longer acceptable for the husband to go out to the pub while the wife stays at home with the kids.
- The increased reluctance of many people to drive after consuming alcohol within the legal limit, thus reducing the number of potential opportunities to go for a drink in a pub. And car ownership and participation in driving are much higher than 30 years ago.
- Employers are in many cases much less tolerant of even light lunchtime drinking by their staff.
- Homes themselves are much more congenial places than they were in the 1970s and offer far more in the way of entertainment, with central heating, multi-channel TV, DVDs, computer games etc.
- The Internet – sitting at home
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