Tuesday 6 November 2012

Empty rooms

Externally attractive pub in a prominent suburban location on a busy main road. It’s been in the Good Beer Guide in recent years, although not in the current edition. Food advertised on A-boards outside, a decent range of beers, although all from the Marston’s stable. Yet, on a sunny Friday lunchtime at about 12.45 pm, it was completely deserted. Not a single customer.

Twenty years ago, I would have expected that pub, while probably not heaving, to be nicely ticking over on a Friday lunchtime. A few working men propping up the bar, or maybe playing a quick game of pool, a couple of groups from local businesses or maybe even schoolteachers, a handful of retired people having some lunch. Traditionally, workers would often go to the pub on Fridays even if they didn’t on other days of the week. Yet now it is completely deserted, and if it can’t even attract any customers at that time on a Friday you have to wonder whether there’s any point in opening at all on weekday lunchtimes. And does that suggest the pub isn’t really viable full stop?

There was nothing obviously amiss with this pub; indeed, to all outward appearances, it was clean, pleasant and congenial. But its emptiness stood as a sad reflection of how far the pub trade has declined.

This isn’t an inner-city area, and actually has seen zero pub closures in the past thirty years. But I would be surprised if any of the five nearby pubs were busy or anything like it, either. Indeed one was not open at all.


  1. Thing is, if its in a surburban location, who is it going to attract during the middle of the day? Not going to be many shoppers or office workers popping in for coffee or lunch like there would be in a city centre pub.

  2. Having just returned from a canal trip I'm frequently surprised/disappointed/worried about the number of pubs we encounter that are closed midweek lunchtimes. It's been a trend for a number of years now, but if there's no business for them I can't really complain.

    I've also noticed a trend among some pubs that open at 2pm or 4pm in midweek. Either way it is worrying that fewer and fewer people are visiting the pub outside of weekends and evenings.

  3. they need a beer and burger offer.

  4. Lord Egbert Nobacon6 November 2012 at 14:50

    Or a stripper.
    That would have the place packed to the rafters.
    I remember being in a pub one lunchtime on the City Road in London when the stripper dipped one of her thruppennies in my pint and invited me to have a lick.
    Happy days.

  5. I blame the health police for the lack of customers in pubs these days.
    When i first started work in a factory in 1978 drinking was the norm most dinner times and everbody including managment went of the Friday dinner,now drinking in the work place is frowned upon.
    On another note when my wife was pregnant in 1989 she drank beer throughout it with no problems,now pregnant women ar'nt allowed to drink.
    Where did that come from,i think the health police and in time they will get alcohol banned altogether.

  6. "Thing is, if its in a surburban location, who is it going to attract during the middle of the day?"

    Well, pubs of that kind certainly used to attract a lot more customers, and some still do.

    You are falling into the trap of assuming that everyone else approaches pubgoing in exactly the same way as you do.

  7. Given that there's no-one in the pub at lunch time, it appears I might be onto something with that assumption, no?

    Who DO you think a suburban pub will attract during the week? Retired folk? Housewives? The Unemployed? All affluent groups with spare money to spend on pub lunches I'm sure.

    The only viable lunchtime opening pubs are those surrounded by offices/shops/tourist areas, and thats really only going to be the for food.

  8. It's the price of a pint that's off putting when a third of the cost is tax.


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