The death and life of the great British pub
Across the country, pubs are being shuttered at an alarming rate – scooped up by developers and ransacked for profit – changing the face of neighbourhoods and turning our beloved locals into estate agents, betting shops, and luxury flats. This is the story of how one pub fought back…
The massive number of pubs in Britain, something between 50,000 and 60,000, is credited by some to the Black Death. Plague-struck, the 14th-century Britons who had not been annihilated were left in an emptier land, earning higher wages, perhaps better inclined to enjoy themselves. They spent more time and money than ever before in purpose-built taverns or private residences that would sell them drink. Some 700 years later, the pubs themselves have contracted a form of plague. Call it the Black Development.
Closures began on a pandemic scale around the time of the 2008 financial crash, when spending in pubs dropped with the recession. Landlords’ profits fell. Meanwhile many of the pubcos, which had undergone rapid expansion during the 90s and 2000s, found themselves over indebted. As the property market collapsed, they were urged by creditors to offload assets, and this meant selling on pubs – often in great anonymous batches.
Some of the thousands of pubs that were sold on after 2008 went on to reopen under new ownership. Some even reopened as pubs, but the majority were remade as restaurants, cafes, minimarkets, community centres, flats (lots of flats), betting shops, loan shops, estate agents. The Beech Tree in Blackburn was converted into the headquarters of a religious charity. The Three Pigeons in Oswestry was bought by a local football team, for use as its clubhouse. The Campaign For Real Ale (Camra) estimated in 2008 that a third of all shuttered pubs were converted into secondary businesses. Another third became residential properties. The final third were demolished. The Turners Arms in Rotherham, in fact, became the office of a demolition firm.
“The time of the 2008 financial crash” was also the first year after the UK smoking ban that came into force on 1 July 2007. During that time pubs lost a great many customers who had enjoyed a cigarette with their pint. I was one of them. I used to go more or less every day. Now I only go when it’s sunny and there’s a garden I can sit in. A lot of smokers stopped going completely.
And the 2008 financial crash had zero effect on my spending. Absolutely zero. Maybe that’s because I didn’t used to buy myself drinks using a credit card. I used to buy my pint with money – pound notes – from my bank current account. And everybody else did the same. Or so I thought.
But some people don’t seem to be able to understand that when pubs lose many of their best customers, they’re likely to go broke. And whoever wrote this article is one of them. In fact, smokers do at least get a mention. But the smoking ban isn’t even offered as a possible factor in the “closure pandemic”.
But, hey, it’s the Guardian, and I suppose that both the writers and readers can believe any number of nonsensical, politically correct things before they’ve even had breakfast. It’s probably politically correct for people to believe that the smoking bans don’t affect pubs adversely, because smoking bans are always A Good Thing, and so can’t have affected them adversely. Something ought to be true, so it must be true. It’s called ‘wishful thinking’. And it’s a form of madness.
Anyway, here’s Donald Trump being asked by Oprah if he’ll ever run for president… back in 1988. And he says all the things he’s still saying now. At least shows he’s consistent.