What is a ‘Local’?

An estate pub

Eavesdropping on Twitter again we spotted the above question which got us thinking. Here’s what we came up with.

1. It is, er, local. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be the very clos­est to your house but it should cer­tain­ly be in the same parish, and fre­quent­ed by your neigh­bours.

2. It might not be the best pub on paper, or have the best beer, but it will be decent. You might not rec­om­mend it to oth­er beer geeks, at least not with­out lots of foot­notes, but you are fond of it. Get­ting to that stage might even have tak­en a bit of effort on your part, as it did for us with the Farmer’s Arms in Pen­zance.

3. It is con­ve­nient. If you can sug­gest to your co-habitee(s) ‘Quick one at the Queen’s?’ and they reply ‘Yeah, why not’, then it’s a local. No pre-plan­ning required, no cal­en­dar check­ing, and you can prob­a­bly leave the shepherd’s pie going in the oven while you nip round before din­ner. (Oh, there you go – it has ‘nip­pa­bil­i­ty’.)

You might live some­where and nev­er iden­ti­fy a local. If all the pubs in the area are tru­ly rot­ten, or you’re very fussy, and how­ev­er hard you try you nev­er devel­op a soft spot, then that’s unfor­tu­nate but prob­a­bly not unusu­al. You’ll no doubt find a pub you like some­where else in town but it won’t be your local even if you become a reg­u­lar (those two words seem paired some­how). But what you should call it, we can’t say.

14 thoughts on “What is a ‘Local’?”

  1. Does a local have to be close to your house? Or can it be some­where near to some­where you reg­u­lar­ly fre­quent? Can the pub between your work and the train sta­tion you use to go home 5 days a week count as your local?

    1. Don’t reck­on so. That’s a dif­fer­ent thing for which our cul­ture appar­ent­ly has no name. Sor­ry. (Call it what you like, obvi­ous­ly – we’re not the police.)

  2. I think you have to actu­al­ly be a reg­u­lar there, too. Where we live we’re ridicu­lous­ly well-sup­plied with pubs & bars – there are nine with­in half a mile’s walk – but there are only three I’d class as ‘nip­pable’, just because sug­gest­ing any of the oth­ers would start a dis­cus­sion, and then the moment would have gone. (The X? Which one’s that? Oh, I know the one. Isn’t it a bit..? “Yeah, I know what you mean. But it’s fine most days. It was just an idea, we don’t have to go there nec­es­sar­i­ly…”)

    I can’t iden­ti­fy with the part about the pub being “fre­quent­ed by your neigh­bours”, though – I’ve got no idea where my neigh­bours drink, or even if they drink. There are two pubs where I reg­u­lar­ly see peo­ple I know, but I don’t know where those peo­ple live; most­ly I know them through the pub. Per­haps this is an urban thing (we bare­ly talk to either of our next-door neigh­bours).

  3. I did con­sid­er the Harp in Chan­dos Place my local when I lived in Lon­don (Hen­don – so nowhere near). Don’t go there as much now (Jan of this year!) but I’d still like to call it a local. If I can’t, per­haps I could call it a focal?

  4. Distance/convenience is seri­ous­ly impor­tant. My near­est poten­tial “local” is almost 1 mile away, and despite it hav­ing a decent range of beer, occa­sion­al live music and excel­lent bar snacks, it’s just not quite close enough to pop to for a quick pint before din­ner, and as such I don’t go fre­quent­ly enough.

    Call me unded­i­cat­ed, but a 17 minute walk to the pub vs. 3 min­utes to Wait­rose for a decent range of beers… I’m embar­rassed at myself.

  5. Yes, I’d say a local has to be rea­son­ably local. If you have to pass plen­ty of oth­er pubs to reach the one you fre­quent most often then it would prob­a­bly be bet­ter described as your “reg­u­lar haunt”.

    A local is the pub that, from your home, is the default answer to the ques­tion “Shall we go to the pub?”

    1. How about if it used to be your near­est pub (and it’s less than half a mile away), but anoth­er four have sub­se­quent­ly opened between you and it?

      (Feel­ing slight­ly guilty at liv­ing in such a tar­get-rich envi­ron­ment now, par­tic­u­lar­ly after read­ing Velky Al’s com­ment. It’s a fair­ly recent thing – I remem­ber a colum­nist in the local paper say­ing that you couldn’t do a pub crawl in our area unless you had a car-dri­ving friend or a stout pony. These days the only dif­fi­cul­ty would be pac­ing your­self.)

  6. Sad­ly I real­ly don’t have a local, in the nip­pa­bil­i­ty sense of the idea (love that as a term though). The near­est drink­ing hole to my house is about 15 miles away, exclud­ing win­ery and cidery tap rooms. While by com­par­i­son I do live ‘in the sticks’, there are prob­a­bly a good 300–400 hous­es with­in a 5 mile radius of my house, and I could not imag­ine such a dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed part of pret­ty much every Euro­pean coun­try I have been to not hav­ing a local pub. Thank good­ness for home­brew and my kegera­tor.

  7. Pur­suant to what oth­ers allude to; there is a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence between the terms ‘local’ and ‘a reg­u­lar’, although they are sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly linked.

    Local means local, with­in your local­i­ty. The­o­ret­i­cal­ly you can have a local but not go to it, there­fore you are not ‘a reg­u­lar’. If you are ‘a reg­u­lar’ in your local then you are ‘a local’ in your local.

    One can be ‘a reg­u­lar’ in a pub that is not with­in your local­i­ty. Many peo­ple fre­quent the pubs in our vil­lage, often com­ing out of Leeds, hence the pub is not their local. How­ev­er they fre­quent­ly drink in there and are well known and accept­ed by the locals, and hence are ‘reg­u­lars’.

    Does all that make sense?

  8. I think what Richard says above is as near as dammit as he agrees to some blur­ring around the edges. I would though con­sid­er the THT as my local though as that’s where I have been drink­ing for the last 20 odd years, though usu­al­ly these days, only at the week­end. I know almost every­one that drinks there at least by sight and most by name. Every­one around here knows that’s where I am most asso­ci­at­ed with and since the THT has only a tiny farm­ing com­mu­ni­ty as true locals, all of the rest of us have the mile up the lane to deal with no mat­ter how we get to the point where the mile starts. So are we reg­u­lars? Yes like as not. Are we locals and is this our local? Not in many ways. It is com­pli­cat­ed.

    I too see lit­tle of mer­it in the “neigh­bour” thing and while my near­est real ale pub is one I reg­u­lar­ly go too and have been doing for years, not a soul behind the bar calls me by name, though many know exact­ly who I am. Is that my local? Maybe.

    1. Rur­al pubs have dif­fer­ent catch­ment areas, par­tic­u­lar­ly once you go beyond the clas­sic “vil­lage”. Where I grew up, the only pubs were about 2 miles from home. There was no doubt which was our “local”, as in the cen­tre of “our” com­mu­ni­ty – it was prob­a­bly the grot­ti­est of the lot, but that was the one used by the peo­ple we went to church with, where we’d go after car­ol singing etc. Even if us young­sters gen­er­al­ly took the view that we’d rather go into town, not least because there would be girls in town but not at the pub. But although the com­mu­ni­ty is strong it’s a style of pub that is strug­gling, with few chim­ney­pots near­by it which means drink-dri­ving enforce­ment is a fac­tor, and gen­er­al­ly there’s less mon­ey around in prop­er farm­ing areas.

      How­ev­er there are still prop­er vil­lage pubs cer­tain­ly in white-col­lar areas where if you see some­one out and about dur­ing the day, “See you lat­er?” is a spe­cif­ic enquiry mean­ing “Will you be in the Red Lion tonight between 6–8pm?”. That’s a Local, it’s pub as com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre “where every­body knows your name” which goes way beyond a strict geo­graph­i­cal def­i­n­i­tion of a local, which as has been said could be some­where you don’t actu­al­ly go.

      It may be hard for some peo­ple to under­stand, but it’s cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble for peo­ple to have that kind of rela­tion­ship with a pub near work. Cer­tain­ly in the City, where an ex used to work. There was a pub where she could be guar­an­teed a drink on the bar in the time it took her to walk from the door, and she often went in there for a quick one after work in order to let the rush hour sub­side a bit, aside from tak­ing peo­ple in there for work meet­ings. Then there was a pub near home that was local but where we nev­er quite made the tran­si­tion to a full Local – we’d go in there maybe once a week, we were known to the staff but nev­er quite plugged in with oth­er cus­tomers. Part­ly because we were at that bor­ing intense just-shacked-up stage of our rela­tion­ship, part­ly it was just the kind of place – it went full gas­tro short­ly after­wards. And to be hon­est when you both have hor­ri­ble com­mutes, all we real­ly want­ed to do was curl up on the sofa with a bot­tle of wine. But the pub in town was her Local in all but prox­im­i­ty to home.

      Prox­im­i­ty does make a dif­fer­ence, though. I’m remind­ed of the French con­cept of the “Cinq à sept” – the time to vis­it one’s mis­tress before going home to the wife. The British have a sim­i­lar rela­tion­ship with drink­ing estab­lish­ments.

  9. One thought on this – it’s inter­est­ing that “local” can also be used with­out any ref­er­ence to whose local it is: beer guides will some­times describe a place as “a pleas­ant back-street local” or what­ev­er, mak­ing “local” a gen­er­al cat­e­go­ry of pub as opposed to “the local” being a spe­cif­ic pub for a spe­cif­ic per­son.

  10. I’ve bought,lived in and sold around 20 homes in my life and every sin­gle one of them from my first flat has always had to pass the local test – there has to be a good pub with­in walk­ing dis­tance.
    On sev­er­al occa­sions I’ve actu­al­ly reject­ed per­fect­ly good prop­er­ties sim­ply because they didn’t pass the test – the abil­i­ty to say to the mis­sus I’m just pop­ping out for a fast quart before din­ner.
    The clos­est I’ve bought a house is a thatched cot­tage 20 sec­onds away from the only pub in a Hamp­shire vil­lage.
    The fur­thest is my cur­rent house – 20 min­utes walk up a steep hill – but it’s worth it because the pub is a belter.Wood-pannelled,no TV or muzak,convivial if occa­sion­al­ly impas­sioned debate,a cork­ing local craft beer and creamy pints of stout.
    I’ve even,after years of pestering,persuaded the land­lord to get Hula Hoops in behind the bar.
    Sad­ly we’re on the move again in the next year or two as we down­size and move back to Blighty to be near­er the kids.
    But I’m real­ly look for­ward to scop­ing out what will prob­a­bly be my last local although there’s an adden­dum to the old local test – if it’s got Doom Bar it’s a def­i­nite no-no.

Comments are closed.