Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Pub plight

I have just returned to FatBigot Towers after yet another splendid curry at my local subcontinental restaurant of choice. It is about three-quarters of a mile away, a very pleasant walk past a number of pubs. My beady piggy eyes are always drawn to a pub window and, on my trip to the spiced trough, through every window I saw a modest number of patrons. One shouldn't expect them to be packed like sardines on a cold and wet Wednesday evening, but seeing two or three people in an establishment that can hold more than a hundred is a sad sight. Even at the quietest times of early evening at least ten to fifteen people were to be seen in those very same pubs just a year or two ago. On the stroll home, comfortably before closing time, numbers had increased very little. A couple had thirty or so customers, none of the rest had more than about a dozen.

It made me think (always a dangerous exercise in the hands of an amateur).

People used to go to those pubs. That was my thought. Just that. People used to go to those pubs.

It begs a question favoured by watchers of has-been small-time celebrities. Where are they now? Leaving aside the fanciful possibility that they are thousands of underground "smoke-easies", the answer is that they are at home. Perhaps their own homes, perhaps friends' or relatives' homes, but they have not disappeared off the face of the planet simply by reason of no longer being in licensed premised. And what are they doing at home? The answer, of course, is that they are doing all sorts of things, but what are they doing booze-wise? Have they taken The Pledge or are they still keen on a small sweet sherry or a half of of milk stout? I would hazard a guess that many of those driven from pubs by not being able to enjoy two vices at the same time have taken to drinking at home in front of the telly or while chewing the cud with other former pub-goers.

If my guess is correct, the happy souls involved will have discovered that a pint of bitter bought in the supermarket or offy costs them roughly a third of what it costs in a pub. Now they have a new establishment in which to consume the demon alcohol. It's not the same as before, but they can't do what they did before because they or their friends are smokers, so they have to make the most of it. How many, I wonder, of those driven from pubs drink the same amount at 80p a pint as they drank at £2.40 a pint? Would you?

By definition the people involved like a drink. Many only want two or three pints. Fair enough, that's what they will drink. Others would have had more at the pub if they could have afforded it. Their choice in days of yore was between buying nine pints at the supermarket and drinking at home while their friends were in the pub, or going to the pub and having a nice chat while downing three pints. Many chose the latter option because the additional cost of the booze was outweighed by the social experience of having their friends around them. Now that they and their friends are excluded from the pub the most obvious consequence is that they will drink more because it is cheaper.

How ironic. A measure brought in on the grounds of improving health will, for many but not all, result in no reduction in smoking but an increase in drinking.


Obnoxio The Clown said...

It was never about health. It was always about control.

Anonymous said...

In my own case, I and my friends stopped going to the pub about fifteen years ago because you couldn't breathe in there for the cigarette smoke.

Also the then-incumbent landlady was not exactly world-class in her customer service skills.

We got used to visiting each others' houses once or twice a week; with the visitors bringing their own beer and the host providing a bottle of whisky, it was also substantially cheaper than said pub.

We did intend to go back to the pub when the smoking ban came in, but in the interim it had changed hands and the new landlord was even worse than the old.

In fact, he was so bad that the place is now closed.

We continue to meet in each others' houses. It's a pleasant tradition, and we don't have to put up with neds, drunks, football on the telly too loud, annoying music, rude landlords, high prices, or anything else unwelcome.

As for a decrease in drinking, if there has been one it's due to advancing age. For quite a long time we drank more, because of course it's much cheaper at home.

In all, probably not an uncommon experience.

woman on a raft said...

Hunting legislation and the ban on fur farming was never about animal welfare, either. The NSPCC is not about child welfare. An emerging theme since 1989 - when I first noticed the trend - has been about control. Even impeccable leftists cite the Bulger killing on 12 Feb 1993 as the point where the Conservative government was reckoned to be on the backfoot with society 'out of control'. The killing deeply influenced the young Tony Blair who was then prepared to indulge a much more interventionist approach - and the way things turned out, the public gave him the authority to do so.