Three Views of The British Pub Today

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Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Aug 02, 2008 2:42 pm

Three interesting views on what is happening to the British pub these days. Well worth reading.

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Rogov


Andrew Hagen in the Telegraph at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main ... do2904.xml

Jane Wardell in the Chicago Tribune at
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nati ... 6414.story

And another in The Economist at
http://www.economist.com/daily/diary/di ... d=11826680
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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Thomas » Sat Aug 02, 2008 4:25 pm

Interesting, and also odd that not one of the articles mention the possibility, too, that pubs long ago began succumbing to large chains and maybe that has something to do with the decline in customers. Could be a collective unconscious affect on the minds of Britons that a corporate store does not a community make.
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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:51 pm

Thomas
I hope you're right - there's certainly a strong undercurrent of folks here seeking out quality and individuality, in food, drink and many other facets of life. Sadly there are also those (and plenty of them) who see such things as just a commodity, with the packaging sometimes being more important than the content (which in the case of drink, barely touches the sides on the way down).

The high streets have also lost much of their individuality and the Shopping Malls that spring up are bereft of anything but the jelly mould chains. I actively seek alternatives these days as you usually get better for cheaper.

Sounds a bit negative, but there may be an unexpected silver lining in the recession, in that many will struggle and often when giants (or should that be dinosaurs) of the industry fall, it's often the independant and niche operators that take advantage of the fall (often with the redundancy money from the giant that used to employ them).

Back to the pubs - certainly the smoking ban changed their customer base dramatically overnight. Smokers perhaps choosing to drink at home, where they're still allowed to smoke (at least for the moment). We'd really drifted away from the pub scene through the effect of smoke on eyes, clothes (and that's not counting any issues with inhaling the smoke). We should have been a target audience for the pubs, but I guess the memory of smoky pubs still remains.

One amusing comment on the smoking ban was that it meant you could now smell the pub and in a few instances, it perhaps smelt better before!

One thing they could do is look to improve what is an almost universally dire wine selection. Generally the sort of wines you encounter would be ~ £3-4 in a supermarket. Maybe having some half decent wines on by the (small but decent stemware - not the increasingly common 250ml size) glass would help. I do wish we had something approaching the Italian wine bars, ofen with simple, but flavoursome light food and a strong range by the glass.

We're lucky in Norwich to still have a strong tradition of good independant pubs (the old comment goes: A church for every week of the year and a pub for every day of the year). The shining light is still the "Fat Cat" (the name filched from the pub of the same name I used to frequent as a college student in Sheffield). There are other great ones as well, though the city centre pubs on the whole supply overpriced tasteless alcohol to the younger drinkers.

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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Neil Courtney » Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:35 pm

Ah, the Olde English Pub! I remember it well.

My first run in with the foibles of the OEP was the day that I arrived in London, in 1972. We decided that we just had to go out and sample a pint of the local's finest, as you do. Unfortunately, coming from Australia and New Zealand, we expected them to be open in the middle of a fine early summer afternoon. We soon learnt that they were all closed for the afternoon and we had to wait several hours before the doors opened for the evening session. Which we did of course.

But the most memorable impression of the OEP was of leaving work at lunch time to go across the road 'for a pint', everyone consuming several pints of ale or Stella Artois, then retuning to work for the afternoon. I am surprised that any work got done at all. Then after work it was time for a few more, maybe a bar meal, then at 10pm everyone would get in their cars and drive home. If you wanted to go to a country pub for Sunday lunch you drove there, drank beer for 2 and a half hours, then drove home again. But very pleasant it was all the same.

The three articles make no mention of the drink driving laws as a reason for the declining popularity of the Pubs. The smoking ban has been in place in NZ pubs and bars for a number of years now, but it is the DIC laws that I think contribute most to the decline of the Local in this country. If I ever have reason to have a drink in a pub here now it is hard to remember what it was like being subjected to the smog of cigarette smoke in the bars, and of having your clothes stink of the smoke the next day and be unwearable. I have nothing but praise for the no smoking laws. But then as a non-smoker it didn't worry me in the slightest.
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Neil Courtney

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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Aug 02, 2008 9:48 pm

Neil
They did have an effect, significantly on countryside pubs, many of whom turned to food as a way of getting people to stay longer than the hour or so it would take most to exceed the alcohol limit for driving.
Quite a while ago now though - the smoking changes have come in the last year or two.

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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Trevor F » Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:44 pm

Neil Courtney wrote:Ah, the Olde English Pub! I remember it well.

My first run in with the foibles of the OEP was the day that I arrived in London, in 1972.


A long time ago when licensing laws were restrictive and before the large breweries were forced under anti-competition laws to divest themselves of a lot of their tied houses.

On my first day at work in the 1970s I was taken off to the pub at 5.30pm to re-emerge at about 8.30pm. I thought that if it it was going to be like that every evening I was quite going to enjoy my working career. Stocktakes, inventory counts at weekends were invariably followed by a trip to the local boozer to sample the local brew. After about a year I became an expert on local English beers, and still am. There still is a wine bar, El Vino, in Fleet Street, where many of the partners in London accountancy and legal practices used to go for their lunch, a liquid one. That might be frowned on now but 30 years ago it was par for the course. And of course The George pub in Union Street, Aberdeen, that did not allow women in the bars. For all I know that may still be the case.

Many pubs have metamorphosed into gastropubs where you can get a decent meal although my personal view is that you drink beer in pubs and not wine.

More recently I was taken out for dinner at the Three Mariners at Oare, near Faversham, owned by Shepherd Neame, the largest independent brewery in England based in Faversham, Kent . Excellent sea bass and an even better Argentinian sauvignon blanc. http://www.shepherd-neame.co.uk/

Also the bar at the Hotel Continental in nearby Whitstable, right on the beach and serving local brews from the independent Whitstable Brewery. http://www.whitstablebrewery.info/whitbrew/. Under the same ownership as the Royal Native Oyster Stores restaurant on the other side of the harbour area. Decent grilled salmon, beer battered haddock and chips and fishcakes althought the last time I was there 10 days ago the service was extremely louche and offhand.

Plenty of pubs around doing good business, nothing to do with smoking bans. In the same way as the introduction of drink driving laws 40 years ago did not harm the pub business.
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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Ian Sutton » Sun Aug 03, 2008 5:41 pm

Trevor
Thanks for mentioning the tied houses - another significant change and IMO one that really backfired (I'd come back to this thread to mention it). It's certainly brought to the fore the concept of theme pubs.

wrt wine in pubs I don't mind pubs saying they're beer only & focusing their energies on ensuring it's in prime condition. It's the sheer tokenism of the wine selections that sadden me - either do it well or not at all (same could be said of more than a few restaurants!). The big joke is the baord outside many (most) pubs that says "Real ale and Fine Wines"

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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Thomas » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:30 pm

Trevor F wrote:
...my personal view is that you drink beer in pubs and not wine.



Trevor,

Don't say that to Rumpole ;)
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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Peter May » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:41 pm

Thomas wrote:
Don't say that to Rumpole ;)


Wasn't Rumpole's 'local' Pommeroys Wine Bar ?
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Re: Three Views of The British Pub Today

Postby Daniel Rogov » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:46 pm

To my personal sorry, both Rumpole (Leo Kern) and Morse (John Thaw) are both dead. Not forgotten, but dead and mourned. Long live the British pub!!!!

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