You can see something along the same lines in the South Manchester suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, which is a prosperous and somewhat “yuppified” area (typical of many city suburbs across the country) where a lot of new bars have opened up and there are probably more than twice as many on-licences as there once were. A lot of these places, such as the Bar, the Marble Beer House and Dulcimer, do offer something interesting on the beer front, but they aren’t by any means exclusively or indeed mainly used by beer buffs.
In contrast, it often seems that failure breeds failure. Some of Manchester’s more down-market suburbs such as Levenshulme have lost more than half their pubs. If nobody else in your circle goes to pubs, then you won’t either. As Chris Maclean says here:
Worse still is the idea that you can profit from another’s demise. People believe that if their nearest competitor is destroyed in this process somehow they’ll be able to mop up the additional business. How wrong can they be? A closed pub seems to blight the area. It seems to me that, if you drive through an area, if one pub is shut then the others nearby are struggling.This becomes very relevant when we consider the oft-heard suggestion that the decline in pubgoing means that a lot more pubs need to close to give the others a chance to survive. It isn’t anywhere near as simple as that.
It is certainly true that, if the demand for pubgoing falls, then over time the number of pubs will fall too. In fact the closure of pubs tends to lag considerably behind the fall in demand, so you end up with a number of struggling pubs with few customers which in itself can be somewhat offputting. It is also impossible to consider this subject without reiterating the point that if you introduce an external legislative constraint that makes pubs significantly less appealing to half their customers, the results are fairly predictable.
But, on the other hand, it doesn't necessarily follow that, if you reduce the number of pubs, it makes the others stronger. The decision to visit a pub is very much dependent on a specific combination of location and circumstance, and if you alter one factor it may well sway the whole decision. People visit pubs for a vast range of reasons about which it’s difficult to generalise, and it’s all too easy for commentators to assume that others’ motivation tends to be the same as their own. Probably making a deliberate decision to go to the pub in preference to other leisure options only accounts for a minority of visits.
As an example, if someone regularly walks to a pub in their village, and that pub closes, the odds are he’ll stop going to the pub entirely rather than use whatever means available to go three miles to the pub in the next village. Even if he does occasionally go to the other pub, he’s unlikely to go there anywhere near as often. In contrast, if the petrol station closed in his village, he would drive three miles to the nearest one rather than stop driving. And even if there are other pubs easily accessible, there may be very good reasons why the customers of one closed pub won’t use those that remain.
Many of the pubs that have closed have been ones on free-standing sites in the middle of extensive areas of housing, where there are no other pubs nearby, which from a narrow rational view of demand you might have expected to have a secure future.
This strongly suggests that simply culling the number of pubs will not guarantee the survival and prosperity of those that remain. What is more important is encouraging the interest and attitude of mind that leads people to visit pubs.
(this post is a revised and expanded version of my response to this blog post by Jesusjohn)