Thursday, 22 March 2012

Start of the rot

It was clear well before July 2007 that the British pub was already in a long-term structural decline. Between 1997 (when the BBPA statistical series starts) and the year to June 2007, beer sales in pubs had fallen by 27%, and a lot of prominent pubs had closed. (For comparison, in the four and a half years since June 2007, sales have fallen by a further 26%)

But when did it start to become clear that this was happening, that a few isolated closures actually added up to a significant trend? Pubs certainly did close in the 1980s, especially in areas of inner-urban decline, but there was generally a feeling that this was just an adjustment to population movements, and at this time new pubs were still being opened in built-up areas, such as the Hind’s Head in Heaton Chapel and the Four in Hand in Didsbury. Some of which, such as the Milestone/Rising Sun in Burnage, were closed again within twenty years.

However, around the turn of the decade, something seemed to begin to change. Maybe it was linked with the go-getting, yuppie culture of the time, but somehow just going to the pub for a drink started to seem less of a default way of spending your leisure time. This coincided with the Beer Orders which led to the transfer of over half the pubs in Britain from the major brewers to pub companies which took a more calculating and dispassionate view of their estates. Owning 10,000 pubs became less a sign of strength and more of a burden.

The first major sign that somewhat was afoot came not with mass closures, but with the large-scale removal of cask beer in the mid-Nineties from many of the less prominent and more downmarket pubs. This started to become apparent around 1996. Of course, many of the pubs to which that happened ended up closing ten years later.

I have written before of the variety of changes in society that have led to people being less inclined to drink in pubs, and most of these trends (excepting the smoking ban) were clearly gathering pace by 2000. But it was only after that date that the high-profile pub closures became impossible to ignore.

In hindsight, what probably brought it home to me was a pub called The Salter in Weaverham in Cheshire, which closed its doors in about 2001. It was a 1950s estate-type pub, but in a reasonably pleasant and prosperous area, and well-sited on a main road. Nobody could claim its location made it unviable. It’s now this little housing development. And it has proved to be the precursor of many, many more.


  1. I'm sorry to say but the decline of the pub is solely the fault of the publicans. Sure, the politicians have a noose around their neck but very few, if any, are fighting back.

    The smoking ban damaged them. The drink drive limit is crucifying them. The rates are destroying them. And the constant rise in prices will be the swing of the executioners axe. Any sane human being knows that when something is too much to afford, no one buys it.

    Publicans (with the people) should have united and said no a long time ago. It proves overwhelmingly that people don't care anymore. It's called conditioning.



  2. That is a bit like saying the hanged man has only himself to blame. Yes, the trade could and should have done more to fight back, but at the end of the day they have been crucified by external circumstances beyond their control.

    Maybe I should have also mentioned the shift in the offical line from moderation to abstention where drivers are concerned, something that over the years has decimated the drinking trade in all pubs outside major urban centres. This is another shift that happened in the late 80s.

  3. That is a bit like saying the hanged man has only himself to blame. Bad analogy. When the punishment for common law was hanging, the hanged man who commited the murder does very much so have himself to blame.

    Drink laws are civil laws (read legislation not laws as they are not common). They are there for the soul purpose of contract and profit. Under common law a party has to have had harm done to them either by physical injury or theft therefore drink laws should not be obeyed. In fact no civil law should be because unless a contract can be provided between the human being and the the government to prove that the human being has decided to become a contractor for the government, then no civil law is proven to be valid. People do not realise that they are not obligated to obey civil law unless they have chosen to through contract.

    The publican signs various contracts with the government in order to establish his/her business and in doing so becomes a contractor to the government or he/she doesn't get paid. Therefore the obvious answer is don't contract with the government. You'll then say "but, if I don't sign a contract, by not obtaining a license to sell alcohol, then I won't be allowed to run a pub? Well, that is true if you choose to adhere to contract law. The police as policy enforcers will therefore follow their role as revenue collectors for the government and arrest you, unlawfully under the only law we should follow which is common law.

    The only way pubs are going to survive is breaking out of control by the government by not contracting with them. Moreso, the easiest way to stop governmental control over your life is to remove the government by not voting for them. It is clear that they do whatever they desire to the overall detriment of the people. However this won't happen because the majority of people don't want to take personal responsibility for their lives and prefer to be governed by politicians even though it means total enslavement. People therefore don't deserve to run their own businesses as slaves have no rights.



  4. The rot started in 1564 where according to Thomas Fuller in his Church History, Archbishop Matthew Parker used the term "Puritan" to describe a significant grouping of English Calvinists. The country has been going downhill since then, improved only by the invention of Hapr Lager in 1960

  5. According to a Government Document (April 2007)
    showing a "Stakeholders" survey including 88,000
    Venues ,550 returns showed a majority support for the forthcoming smoking ban in pubs and similar
    For the simple minded 87,450 sed nowt and did nowt.Even when a few stood up to be counted the
    majority dived into their cellars to hide behind the barrels.Must'nt forget the Beer Defence Regiments whose squalid cap doffing to
    authority will never be forgotten.

    In memory of better times

  6. Cooking Lager-spoilt only by the reference to the vaguely Czechoslovakian sounding "Hapr" lager-is that any relation to that fizzy piss "Harp"?

  7. There's a lot of things that hurt pubs in the decade before the smoking ban, each making a small difference. I'm not saying that many of these didn't make people happier, just documenting the effect on pubs:-

    1. The generation that drank and drove got older and started to be replaced by a generation that didn't.
    2. People started to work further from home (so drove) or worked in out-of-town places that were further from pubs. I work freelance and have spotted quite a strong correlation of Friday drinking to distance-from-pub. Companies on business parks see no Friday drinking.
    3. Supermarkets stayed open longer and improved their product ranges.
    4. The gentrification of rural areas.
    5. Decline of physical work, leading to people being more health-conscious.

    Anyone who blames publicans for what happened after 2007 can go to hell. We should also include in "pub closures", those pubs that have switched from being predominantly boozers to pubs that are now pushing food heavily. I used to have 20 pubs within walking distance, and while they served food, it was secondary to all of them. Now, over half of them are.

  8. The Stigier,

    ""Anyone who blames publicans for what happened after 2007 can go to hell." I presume you're talking about the smoking ban? As you pointed out above there are many reasons why the pub's are dying out. You could also add miserable bar staff who act no differently to cashier checkout staff. Then there's pubs that have TV's all over the place. I could go on.

    I cut down visiting pubs and the amount I drink down to costs. If publicans don't make a stand against the government there will be no pubs left. Brewers will happily sell to supermarkets and restaurants. I blame publicans because many (the overwhelming majority) did nothing to protect their customers who had kept them in business. It's despicable that they should have to go outside to smoke while buying their alcohol. Publicans and the people are the reason pubs are dying because they vote the moron politicians into power.



  9. The breweries started it 50 years ago. They tore down partitions and turned pubs into souless barns. Then they employed designers rather than architects to refurbish them every few years with cheap materials pandering to the latest craze. Pubs stopped welcoming a variety of customers. They now appealed to a narrow demographic. High street 'circuits' became no go areas for the sensible and/or older drinker. Satellite sport was everywhere, conversation a no go. Soft drinks and bar snacks became expensive. Drinkers were not welcome at the 'food-led' venues. There are plenty of reasons there without the smoking ban or tax increases.

  10. Despite all those negative trends (chronicled by Christopher Hutt in The Death of the English Pub) the pub trade boomed in the 60s and 70s, and reached an all-time peak in 1979. I would say it held up pretty well until at least 1990. So I'm not sure that the actual experience people got in the pub has been a major factor in their decline.


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