Monday, 27 January 2020

A dismal milestone

Over the past few days, the pub closures ticker in the sidebar has passed the 20,000 mark. Now, I’m well aware of the limitations of this data, that it’s simply based on statements of weekly or monthly pub closures issued by the likes of the BBPA and CAMRA, and that it’s essentially a gross figure that does not take account of new bar openings. But it certainly conveys a fundamental truth, that the pub trade overall has seen a dramatic decline over that period. According to the most recent figures produced by the BBPA, beer sales in pubs have declined by 35% since 2007, so it’s not exactly surprising that so many have closed.

I would never claim that the smoking ban has been a monocausal factor in pub decline over that period, but it has certainly been a significant one, especially amongst the more down-to-earth, wet-led pubs. It’s undoubtedly true that a huge number of much-loved pubs have been lost, such as, in Stockport alone, the Tiviot, Waterloo and Grapes. And, if you’ve lost the only pub in the area where you live, it’s scant consolation that a new craft bar has opened up three miles away in the town centre charging four quid a pint. It is nothing remotely resembling a like-for-like replacement.

Edit: At present the counter appears to be advancing by three per day.


  1. Perhaps the reason why there is no like for like replacement of 'the only pub in the area where you live' is that there is no call for a like for like replacement. Over the last 40 years there have been profound demographic economic and cultural changes in this country,most if not all of the pubs that have closed pre dated such changes and an argument can be made that they were no longer fit for purpose particularly where many of the customers have died or have become too old or infirm to be regular drinkers and where social changes have resulted in there be no,or a limited number of younger replacement drinkers. In such circumstances the town centre craft beer bar,the bar in the converted shop in the local shopping parade or the 'dining pub' on the retail park meet the current requirements for replacement venues. Throughout the last 1000 years drinking establishments have evolved to meet social changes and the present evolution is nothing new and should be welcomed. Perhaps the counter needs to be modified so that new openings are reflected.

  2. The counter is a third-party app - maybe you could suggest it to them.

    According to a graph shown in a recent blogpost by Pete Brown, the net loss of "pubs" in the UK between 2007 and 2019 was 11,990, or 23.5%, which in itself is pretty dramatic, although not as much as the fall in beer sales.

  3. Presumably, neither does the counter take into account those pubs which are still nominally open, but which are to all intents and purposes now restaurants. I recently re-visited a pub where, in my misspent youth many years ago, I was a proper “regular” and there simply wasn’t anywhere where you could sit and just have a few drinks with friends – or at least not without feeling that you were taking up a space that the owners would really rather was taken up by diners. Every table in every area (including what used to be the old Public Bar – a tiny, low-ceilinged room which might once upon a time have been called “the snug”) was set out with tables for food with menus, placemats and cutlery etc. There was, of course, a bar, but virtually no room between it and the nearest dining table and certainly not a single bar stool in sight. The message was very clear: “We’re not a drinking establishment – we’re an eating one.” The bar was clearly there purely to cater for diners to pop up and get an extra pint or two or glass of wine to go with a meal, if they didn’t want to wait for the serving staff to come around. I’m sure it’s doing perfectly well – it’s been there years and looked as if it had had a big makeover with almost all of the interior walls knocked out and the whole place now one big dining room. But a pub it wasn’t, notwithstanding that it had kept its old name and still looked similar from the outside and therefore no doubt wouldn’t feature in the figures as a “pub closure” even though, effectively – as a pub it clearly had been “closed” for several years.


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