A recent arrival on the North-West beer blogging scene is Seeing the Lizards. One point that the author Matthew Lawrenson has addressed is how just going to the pub for a drink has become much less socially acceptable over the years, something that I have referred to on more than one occasion. His post is very true and perceptive.
When I was learning to drink in the late 70s and early 80s, it was entirely normal for responsible, respectable people to just go for a drink or two in a pub. Now, by and large, it isn’t. Many blog readers who regard drinking and pubgoing as a specific leisure pursuit may struggle to appreciate this, but the vast toll of closed pubs in all kinds of areas bears witness to a profound social change.
This has manifested itself in all kinds of subtle ways. Workers are far more reluctant to drink any alcohol at all at lunchtimes, and even to go out at all to the pub for a snack and have a soft drink. To some extent this stems from employers’ policies, but it still happens even when there is no such constraint. They are also far less keen to meet up for drinks after work.
There’s also a much greater unwillingness to drive after drinking any alcohol whatsoever, despite being well within the legal limit. This doesn’t mean that people find another way to go to the pub, they simply don’t go at all. This has implications for most of the other trends I mention. To some extent related to this, the comfortable middle classes are far less likely to be found drinking in pubs than they once were.
Thirty years ago, it was noticeable how a large proportion of pub customers, especially in the more “respectable” pubs, were courting or married couples. Now, unless having a meal, they’re hardly seen at all. In particular, the established middle-aged couple just “going out for a drink” have pretty much entirely vanished.
Lunchtimes throughout the week used to see a variety of customers, whether local workers, unemployed, retired or just on a day off. That has largely disappeared too, and many pubs no longer bother opening at all on weekday lunchtimes. My local pub used to be busy on weekend lunchtimes with groups of social drinkers, who often knew people from other groups and engaged in banter with them. Now, it’s virtually deserted apart from a smattering of diners. When you do go in a wet-led pub at lunchtime or early doors most of the remaining customers often seem to be deadlegs.
Before the ban, smokers used to be some of the keenest traditional drink and chat customers, but now they are banished they are no longer there, or at least much more rarely there.
Pubs can still be busy on weekend evenings, but the traditional baseload trade that used to sustain them during the rest of the week is greatly diminished. People will go out for a skinful on Friday and Saturday nights, but they’re no longer going out for a couple on Mondays and Tuesdays. I go in a few pubs where the old ways still prevail, but virtually all the customers are now over the age of fifty, and that pattern of pubgoing will be gone in twenty years’ time.
It often seems that the only form of alcohol consumption that is acceptable nowadays is slumping in front of the telly once all the chores and responsibilities are done, and cracking open a bottle of Old Speckled Hen to watch the latest Midsomer Murders. Responsible, employed people in relationships just don’t go to the pub for a casual drink any more.