Let’s all raise a glass to the good old British pub
Last updated at 09:38, Friday, 22 June 2012
I met my husband in a pub which has since been converted to an old people’s home – and he is now suggesting that we move there!
This week I noted that Santander had undertaken a survey which showed that pubs were top of the list of most valued local businesses in the North.
The study, which asked people about the businesses in their area, found that for nearly half (48 per cent) of people the pub was their most valued local amenity.
This was closely followed by the newsagent (46 per cent) and the takeaway (35 per cent).
It also suggested that people use their local pub about once a week.
If this survey is true, why is the pub I met Ian in now an old people’s home, and why are pubs closing down all over the place?
We had a story in the Maryport edition of the Times & Star last week about a local businessman who has just bought his second pub, but he is surely the exception.
Publicans I have spoken to over recent years have felt the economic pinch more than most.
The decline appeared to start with the smoking ban and continued with the cheap booze offered in supermarkets. It is now cheaper to drink at home and, if you are a smoker, certainly more comfortable.
Actually, if you are a non-smoker it is more comfortable, too.
Incidentally, I fail to see the benefit of the smoking ban. I am totally in favour of having smoking and non-smoking rooms, and I even believe that staff who smoke should serve the smokers, while staff who don’t smoke should wait on the non-smokers.
The ban on smoking in buildings has been a total failure.
Walk past a pub now and you get a face full of smoke from the people huddling in the doorways. In fact, just walking into a pub would surely give you more second-hand smoke inhalation than sitting in the pub used to!
The other thing is the mess on the streets. We don’t need signage any more. Just look for the heap of cigarette butts on the pavement and you know you are outside a pub.
Next is the price of alcohol. I feel sorry for the local pubs that have to compete against the bulk-buying power of the huge supermarket chains, and even against the larger pub chains who can serve cheap booze and food. There’s often no atmosphere, but if all you care about is a bite to eat and a cheap drink, these are the places to go.
I wonder, meanwhile, how much the breweries do to help their publicans?
Have they reduced rents or drink prices during the economic downturn? I can’t say for certain but I would be pretty willing to bet that most of them have not.
Profit drives our world, and when profits are down it is always the guy at the bottom of the food chain who goes under.
The demise of the pub is a tragedy. Our British pub has (or had) a reputation throughout the world.
Anywhere in the world you go you are bound to come across at least one bar trying to emulate the British inn.
The pub where I met my husband was the social hub of his village.
On a Saturday night there was always live entertainment. That didn’t mean expensive and/or loud bands; local people would simply get up and do their turns.
There was a man who played the spoons, and a rather drunken woman whose trade number was My Tears Have Washed I Love You From The Blackboard of My Heart.
Then there was the man who literally stopped the room with his weekly and wonderful rendition of The Old Rugged Cross – perhaps not particularly appropriate considering the surroundings, but sung so beautifully that nobody cared.
Sunday night was games night. You could play carpet bowls or darts or dominoes – and everybody did.
We need those pubs back. We had a group of Italians staying with us once and we took them to the Sailors’ Return in Maryport.
They spent the evening learning to play darts, having a game of snooker and generally just enjoying themselves.
It was a lovely night and just so British. I’m not surprised they had a good time at this particular pub, mind you, because the landlord there stopped selling fish and chips for a while in a neighbourly bid to allow a new fish and chip shop next door to get established.
I wonder how many “neighbours” are helping their local pubs in this time of economic recession.
The 24-hour drink licence was supposed to make us more “Mediterranean.” We were supposed to become responsible drinkers enjoying a cafe culture.
Let’s not. Let’s be British. Let’s turn back the clock and reclaim our British pub!
I’m still up for a game of dominoes.
First published at 19:20, Thursday, 21 June 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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