Friday 4 December 2009

Rise of the anti-pub

This provocative article on Sp!ked by Nathalie Rothschild is bound to ruffle a few feathers: A place where nobody knows your name - as Britain’s dark, smoky, friendly pubs close down, the anti-pub - the JD Wetherspoon - is taking their place.

That the chain is marching on in these credit-crunched times signals not a healthy growth of public houses, but the relentless rise of the anti-pub, which is a suck-up to, and a beneficiary of, our unhealthily killjoy times.

The rise of JD Wetherspoon parallels the slow but steady decline of authentic, grimy, smoky, welcoming, rowdy and unruly real pubs. There’s nothing wrong with family-friendly cheap eateries, but publicans and their customers should be allowed to relax, to sing and talk loudly to friends and strangers, play games, misbehave and drink if they want to.

And, as I posted here, I broadly agree. Wetherspoon’s are soulless, corporate eating and drinking barns – they are not real pubs.


  1. Well Mudge, those freaky pubs will fit right in now Eutopia has arrived.

    By the time my youngest is old enough to drink (he's 14) these disgusting Borg pubs might be all he will be able to use.

    A terrifying thought.


  2. I know what you mean, but I have to say that when it comes down to it, a pub's a pub to this beerhound.

  3. I've no great love of Weatherspoons, there's good ones and bad ones, but even the best are fairly soulless. Nevertheless, there wouldn't be so many of them if people didn't like what they have to offer - so who's to say these people are wrong, Spoons may not be what you and Ms Rothschild like but each to their own, isn't that what you libertarians believe in or is it just your own vision of what counts as a proper pub that's allowed ? Besides, I've witnessed singing, loud talking, games, drinking and certainly more misbehaving (fights, abuse, crafty fags) than I care for in my local Spoons so I'm not sure what Ms Rothschild is going on about. I like a "traditional" pub (minus the smoke) as much as anyone but I recognise that my taste in pubs and beer are not much more than a niche preference, and whilst I wish it were otherwise and will do my best to advocate and support the pubs I like, I'm not going to look down on others just because they prefer something else - time for you to come down off your pedestal, all those people you think have been excluded from pubs because of the smoking ban forcing pubs to close, they're actually down at Spoons tucking into an all day breakfast and knocking back £1.79 pints, whether you like it or not.

  4. An excellent and thought-provoking article, with more than a grain of truth! Having said that, Wetherspoons is still the place to go to try something different on the ale front, mainly because too many "traditional" pub landlords prefer to play it safe by offering well-known semi-national brands, rather than something more exotic, or indeed interesting.
    Yes Spoons can be a "distress purchase", and I agree that they are everything big-government would like a pub to be, but they have also been a breath of fresh air, blowing through the pub world.
    Properly run traditional pubs will continue to survive, alongside JDW outlets. What won't are grimy, characterless, run- down, desolate, souless drinking dens, run by people only interested in makeing a quick buck.

  5. I do recognise that Wetherspoons have exposed the poor service standards and limited offer that were often typical of independently-run pubs. This was especially true in London where they originated where, in my experience, many pubs in the early 1980s were truly awful.

    I do use Wetherspoons, and in a strange town they are often the best bet for a decent pint and tolerable food. But a good traditional pub, which can still be found in most towns, will always beat them hands down for atmosphere.

    I know it's a hobbyhorse of mine, but I would be much more favourably disposed towards Spoons if they installed extensive bench seating rather than loose chairs and tables. As a commenter said on here in the past: "people will still quite happily squeeze up close on bench seating. It may not be as trendy but it certainly makes for a more vibrant and interactive atmosphere." It makes a place feel much more like a pub.

  6. I keep my grandchildren well away
    from Spoons customers for fairly
    obvious reasons.
    Spoons clientele appear to be the
    local wanderers who definitely
    had serious misgivings in their
    puberty on top of deep maladjustment with low quality
    parentage. I am led to believe the ale is fairly decent and cheap but this cannot offset the presence of
    unwashed mutants and odour of
    cheap huggies

    Not Posh but Fussy

  7. I have to agree with Reading Tom and Paul Bailey here.

    Bad and poor value pubs were just fertile breeding ground for JDW.

  8. "Spoons may not be what you and Ms Rothschild like but each to their own, isn't that what you libertarians believe in or is it just your own vision of what counts as a proper pub that's allowed?"

    A libertarian view would be that all pubs should be considered on their merits for those who wish to use them. None should be disallowed.

    No-one is saying that Spoons should change their business model. However, pubs which would like to offer smoking facilities for their customers have been forced to against their will.

    That is not libertarian.

    People may frown on Spoons pubs, just as people may frown on pubs which allow smoking. Both, however, should be allowed if they can prove to be profitable.


  9. JDW will become the 'Tesco' of the pub world. Not saying that's good nor bad:

    "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”


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