Thursday, 6 March 2008

The death of the English pub

A landlord activist I know (how many of them can there be?) today sent me this link to a deeply depressing story about the current fate of the English pub. Chapter 2 of my book focuses on the decline and potential fall of the English pub and it's not a cheery story.

Forget the monarchy, the church, the House of Commons - if you want an institution which truly represents and distills England, it's the pub. But for how much longer? This article suggests that the anti-democratic (and classicly NuLabour) smoking ban has added to the ongoing woes of the local boozer - woes that include inflated beer prices, changing demographics, an increasingly puritanical culture (how the English love to revert to their Roundhead tendencies every few decades) and predatory pub companies. As a result, a shocking 27 pubs are going out of business every week. It's enough to make you turn to drink

Read more about this in the book - but don't forget to do something about it too. For starters you could lend your support to CAMRA and to Freedom For Pubs. But you should also take direct action by going down to your local and drinking as much beer as possible. Real beer, mind. Carling or Fosters will only make things worse.


Alfie said...

Yeah, depressing isn't it? In my little part of West Lancashire, bloody loads of pubs have closed - including one that has been going for over 250 years..

The 51st State is about to replace us.

Toque said...

I wouldn't mind if Gordon Brown increased tax - or did something - to make cheapo supermarket booze more expensive.

This could be accompanied by a decrease in tax on real ale in pubs (thereby favouring proper traditional pubs and not those ones that sell foreign-style lagers and alcopops/shooters).

In my dreams.

Rather he'll decrease tax on whisky and whallop real ale and cider across the board.

Paul said...

There is some talk now of cracking down on supermarket booze. But you're right, govt needs to distinguish between decent local boozers that actually foster community spirit and the binge-drinking holes that destroy it. Currently they just whack them all with the same mallet.

But then Gordon, like Tony, is the worst kind of left-wing puritan; stemming from the sour-faced rather than the celebratory side of the socialist camp. Plus he's not even a socialist. Teetotal self-righteousness plus predatory capitalism: mmm. What is the point of him, again? Remind me.

Paul Garrard said...

The British pub is most certainly on the endangered list that's for sure. The reasons for it are quite complex and not any one thing. Social habits have changed, fashions change and pubs don't always keep up with the market or find a lucrative niche. Yes the smoking ban will have had an effect but it's only one of many changes. Smoking in public is by definition an act of fascism and cannot be defended on any level.
We all need to be drinking more cask conditioned ale!

Paul said...

Smoking in public is 'by definition an act of fascism?' Er ... well, firstly the bar of a pub is not a public place: it's a private business and it should be entirely up to its owner whether its customers smoke in it or not. If no-one wants to, no-one will go there and the pub will close. What i do with my lungs has nothing to do with the state (not that I smoke.)

Secondly, fascism, as far as i am aware, is an authoritarian political system which subordinates the needs of the individual to the interests of a militarised state. What that has to do with having a fag with your pint is quite beyond me. And you, it would seem.

But at least we can agree on the need for more real ale.

Anonymous said...

Which is why, when an overwhelming number of "traditional" pub landlords said that they would abandon hot food, etc., because they'd go under without their smokers, the government amended the legislation so there would be no escape.

The smoking ban was originally prompted by health and safety concerns - fair enough. When it became apparent that it could be used to destroy " institution which truly represents and distills England, it's the pub.", it was a chance too good to miss.

Depressing article here:

Anonymous said...


We are fighting the replacement of the pub that is the centre of our community by flats and townhouses. It goes to the Planning Committee here in Cardiff on Wednesday and the Planning Officers Report, recommending granting of the Planning Application is so biased in favour of the development it is not true. We will hope that members of the Planning Committee will visit the site and come to the same conclusion as us that this development will be a blot on our landscape.
For anyone interested our website is

Hugh (Chairman of the Pantmawr Action Group)

Elaine Saunders said...

Also the decline of the old pub names must be mourned in the trend for modernism. Some have been with us for 2000 years and celebrate every aspect of our history - from royalty to religion through war, power and ambition. Few people know what the signs up and down the High Street mean but they tell a fantastic story. It would be a shame to lose these unique historical records.

Elaine Saunders
Author: A Book About Pub Names

Anonymous said...


"fascism, as far as i am aware, is an authoritarian political system which subordinates the needs of the individual to the interests of a militarised state. What that has to do with having a fag with your pint is quite beyond me. And you, it would seem."

A fascist state isnt necessarily a militarised state.

So EU new labour are not deliberately subordinating the needs of English individuals to the interests of [the so-called and supposedly still functioning UK state then]?
EU new labour are absolutely doing that. Please do not tell me that EU new labour are not targetting England regarding pubs. Oh, now that's a surprise. The amount of Scottish pubs has gone up!

scottish pub numbers:
2001 5,084
2002 5,082
2003 5,122
2004 5,178
2005 5,214
2006 5,150

Of course, I can only find England and wales pub numbers so how knows how many pubs in England have closed?

England and wales pub numbers:
2001 52,832
2002 51,415
2003 52,145
2004 52,969
2005 51,418
2006 51,532

Fascism is a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism). [Sounds like eu new labour to me]
It is a system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, [sounds like Gordon Brown to me]
stringent socioeconomic controls, and suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship. It is in the main,
oppressive and dictatorial.

"What that [fascism] has to do with having a fag with your pint is quite beyond me."

Can you have a fag with your pint then? Smoking ban = fascism Indirectly abolishing pubs = fascism Do you see where this is leading? I hope you do because one day the govt might decide that they want YOU to be Gordon Brown's bitch!

Paul said...

Hello anonymous - I don't know who you are but you don't seem to have read either my post, or my book, or the comment you are commenting on.

I was responding to a poster who argued that smoking in pubs was fascism - not that banning it was. I don't agree with the ban.