Last Saturday, as I reported here, I attended the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival for the Great Manchester Beer Debate. Now, I can’t say that I’m a great fan of beer festivals as a punter, but it was hard to fault this one and it certainly had the feel of a special occasion. However, tempting as it might be, it would be wrong to extrapolate from the healthy attendance and lively atmosphere in the hall that all was well in the world of beer.
The following Sunday lunchtime I called in at one of my local pubs for a couple of pints. This is a pub that does show TV football, but Southampton vs Leicester wasn’t going to pull in much of a crowd, and except for big matches they don’t put it on in every room, meaning it’s easy to escape from it. Plus, they don’t have any piped music as it would conflict with the sports commentary.
However, it was notable that there can’t have been more than about fifteen customers in the entire place. Now, being a miserable sod, I don’t really mind sitting on my own with my pint quietly reading the paper, but I’m only too well aware that isn’t healthy for the pub trade as a whole. No doubt someone will pipe up “Well, Mudgie, you will go in the old man pub. The crafty bar down the road would be buzzing with bright young things,” but, realistically, it wouldn’t be. The only pubs that would be anywhere near busy would be food-led ones.
Twenty years ago, though, that pub, while not standing room only, would have been pretty busy. Now it isn’t, and it tends to become a self-reinforcing cycle, as few people really want to sit in solitary splendour, and if that’s their experience they will be less likely to go next time. I wrote in the past how just going to the pub for a drink was increasingly becoming something that normal, responsible people just didn’t do any more, and my experience underlined that point.
You can easily get into a regular habit, but suddenly realise that you’re the only person still doing it. Sadly, it seems that routine, casual drinking in pubs now increasingly falls into that category.