Sunday, 17 May 2009

The life and soul of the drinking classes

There's a good – if somewhat elegiac – article here in the Times by Melanie Reid.

Pubs have been around since the 11th century but unstoppable 21st-century social forces - drink-driving legislation, the smoking ban, the internet, cheap supermarket booze - are killing them. Drinking, instead of being a public, moderate thing, is being done to extreme at home - and more people are dying of cirrhosis as a result. (At least when you drink yourself to death in a pub, you have a few laughs and lots of people come to your funeral.)

In tidying up society, making it neater, shinier, healthier and safer, something has been lost. I think it's called soul. Pubs are repositories of character and contact: messy, funny, traditional, politically incorrect places, which beat Facebook and YouTube for entertainment every time.
But the point must be made that the decline of pubs is due to a multiplicity of social changes and they cannot simply be legislated back into rude health. Even if the price of off-trade booze was doubled overnight, I doubt whether it would save more than a handful of pubs.


  1. Plenty of the facebook generation like going out for a drink, boys and girls will always need environments within which to meet, and whilst in meeting the opposite sex on the internet the odds are good, the goods are so often odd. The kids however prefer bars to pubs and bars where there are few people over 30. Where a traditional pub may have steady daily trade with a weekend peak, the trend for pubs and bars is one of weekend drinking, with little mid week demand. That business model has to cover the quiet times, and prices will reflect that, but the young appear to be the least price sensitive of all generations, accepting prices for cooking lager the older and wiser laugh at. The kids are out drinking, they are just not in a traditional pub.

  2. There are pressures on the tied landlord which can cause problems for a pub. However, the real reason pubs are closing is that most pubs are crap. The idea that every pub deserves saving is a fantasy. Too many pubs are merely dens for the lumpen proletariat - Look at just about any pub, it obvious to see the reason it is failing. It simple: People who run them want to make money only under their conditions.

  3. Pubs will survive if people want them to.


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