People worry about pubs: they’re in decline, disappearing, not what they used to be. If they do survive, argues M. Lawrenson, it will be as the preserve of the oddball, the poseur, the ‘connoisseur’.
But, while we suspect that there will be fewer pubs in a decade’s time, we also feel confident that they’re too useful ever to disappear completely.
When we’re visit old stamping grounds and tell friends we’ll be in town, despite our frightful middle class tendencies and impending middle age, no-one ever says, ‘Let’s have dinner’, or ‘Let’s go for a coffee’ — it’s always ‘Which pub?’
They’re spacious, generally comfortable, and open later than almost any other establishment. They usually sell something to eat, even if it’s only a bag of crisps. Where could be better if, after nine in the evening, you need to spend two hours with someone at a location convenient for their house in one suburb and yours in another?
Everywhere we have ever worked, the pub has been the default location for ‘leaving dos’, celebrations, (real) team building exercises (as opposed to contrived ones), and even difficult conversations. Sometimes, the pub felt like a compromise — perhaps the wine drinkers and the trendy young ‘uns sulked, crying ‘Can’t we go somewhere nice?’ — but it did the job better than any other venue.
They’re still where we find ourselves after weddings and christenings, in neglected back rooms, with neatly-trimmed sandwiches and unbuttoned uncles. When people bang on about pubs as ‘community assets’, is this what they mean? It ought to be.
Perhaps we’ve over-optimistic on behalf of the pub, though, and maybe this instinct is dying out. We’ll have to ask around.