This is now starkly underlined by Steve Gwilt in the latest issue of Opening Times, in an article entitled Gone but not forgotten... Ashton-under-Lyne, a study in misery for the drinker. (Warning, it’s a big .pdf, and you’ll need to scroll down to Page 16).
More than one in three pubs in existence in the town fifteen years ago have now closed, he says, and the situation is much the same in many of the Manchester satellite towns, although Stockport has not suffered quite so badly. He writes:
Out west, the credit crunch, the smoking ban, town centre redevelopment and the changing demographics have done for several pubs.And his conclusion is a reproach to anyone who still goes on about the reason pubs are closing is that they’re crap:
The same issue of Opening Times also contains the write-up (on Page 9) of the pub crawl of Stockport Market Place that I referred to here – so those who don’t know can find out my real name.And yet I’ve always admired those down to earth staunchly working class locals and Ashton had many. Places doing what they’ve done for a century or more – being the heart of a local community and helping dull the pain of the day to day miseries we all face. Of course these pubs are much the better if they have some architectural merit; and much more palatable if they sell real ale. But even a cold leaking shack dispensing chemical lager to a band of dedicated locals should have its place in our communities. No food, and no frills and no beer mats laying down the law and selling healthy lifestyles either. But these pubs are slipping away and part of our history is going with them.
More than one in every three pubs we had in Ashton 15 years ago is gone, and many of those that remain are up for sale or to let. Now you might disagree with me that these pubs are worth saving. But too often in Opening Times I see remarks such as “good riddance” when a non-real ale pub closes for the last time. Yet it is these ordinary pubs that form an established network of community locals – with their darts teams and pool tables, their dominoes, cards and quizzes and yes, their keg beers too. They are the fabric of our communities and we should do all in our power to support them – real ale or not.
A “bad” pub can always be turned into a “good” pub. A demolished or de-licensed pub is lost forever – like the nearly 40 pubs of Ashton you won’t find today.