The resurgence in craft brewing has never been bigger, yet a new report predicts the death of the local boozer.
A few weeks ago I was on Channel 5's News Talk live debating with CAMRA's Roger Protz the news that the Good Pub Guide had called for 4,000 pubs to close. You can watch our debate here.
Last week a second blow befell the British boozer; a new YouGov report has found that 57% of adults claim they no longer have a 'local'.
Time gentlemen please
There were around 17,000 fewer pubs in 2011 than there were in 1892. That's a lot of pubs lost. So why are pubs closing at all? Well, there's a number of reasons; chiefly, I believe, is the fact that society has changed.
Pubs cannot build a business solely around giving glasses of beer to men like they could in the past, and I say this as a beer-loving man! Of course publicans and CAMRA would lay the blame at the 'tied' system, where a landlord has to buy beer from a brewery or Pub company at inflated market prices and the Government for alcohol duty.
Where do you choose to socialise?
The tied system may be wrong, but I think the biggest thing that's affected pubs is the explosion of easily accessible restaurants. As the report shows, there are so many other outlets for our disposable income these days. In the past 20 years there has been a massive boom in restaurants. Prior to the 1990s, there was either the odd neighbourhood place, a few proto-chains like Bernie Inn, and a fledgling fast food offering.
Today when they build a new shopping complex or public space, it's often a clutch of restaurants (What I call Yo!WagaLucio's) that they put in, not pubs. Nipping at the other heel of pubs are the coffee shops, both chain and bespoke. In short, the public space for many ordinary people to socialise and get refreshment was once the pub, or perhaps the odd tea room, but now it's pretty much every other shop on the high street, what's left of it.
Where's all the beer going?
At the same time as all this is going on, we've also seen a huge increase in breweries. In fact, there's over 1,000 reckoned CAMRA last year. Roger Protz is quoted as saying: "A double dip recession has done nothing to halt the incredible surge in the number of brewers coming on stream, making the small brewing sector surely one of the most remarkable UK industry success stories of the last decade". All that beer's got to be sold somewhere and this does not sound like an industry in decline. So where's it going?
Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food is a smash hit TV show, his book is selling by the shedload, and his pub has just been voted the best the best 'restaurant' in the UK. So is food (and good beer of course) the answer? Do we still love the British pub, but only a certain type of pub? Is it still the hub of the community?
Vote in our poll and let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.
You might also enjoy
Be the first to comment
Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature