Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time To Call Time On Death Of The Pub

Sundays used to be a time to pop down to the local and put the world to right. Not any more. Where's the real ale, real fire, real food, real atmosphere, real pub? Time to put the real back into reality.

With traditional pubs disappearing at a rate of knots (one in four closing and rising), soon they will be a thing of the past. And it only happened over the last few years. 

Thanks to New Labour, it's now all style and no substance. A cafe culture, wine bars, gastro pubs. And if you do find a pub open, with the obsessive smoking ban, chances are they stink of stale beer and urine.

We live on a wind swept island in northern Europe. It gets cold and miserable even in summer. Our staple alcoholic drink is beer like rest of northern Europe. And we like to chat. The atmosphere was a bit smoky but that's part of the atmosphere.

Pubs disappeared in a mixture of New Labour political correctness and greed and the smoking ban has a lot to answer for. 

Live music is dead. The brewery can make more money from us feeding the jukebox. Real fires have gone. You need to employ someone to lay and light them, keep they stoked up, clean up the mess and sweep the chimneys. The Political Elite don't care. They have created their own themed pubs in the pretty commuter villages. 

Real food just isn't as convenient as convenience food. Mass-produced frothy beer is cheaper than real ale. The mark-up on wines and fancy bottled drinks is enormous. Creating a stylish gastro-pub dining experience is a con. The mark-up here is amazing. And of course there is no-smoking, nowhere. Dogs are banned (Health and Safety and all that).

There is an alternative that could work. 

Create English Heritage Pubs but only if they pass the 3R's. They must sell real ale. If they serve any food it must be real food with local seasonal ingredients made on on the premises. There must be real fires, open fires. Piped music is banned. Real live music is encouraged. Smoking is allowed with areas set aside for non-smokers. 

The English Heritage Pub would operate strict licensing hours - 11am to 11pm. Landlords would operate a zero tolerance policy on any unruly behaviour.

The incentive for breweries would be the increase in trade and there must be a lowering of Business Tax for the qualifying pubs, with improvement grants to bring the premises up (or down) to standard. 

But to qualify they must follow the 3R's - Real ale, Real food, Real atmosphere. It will only work as a whole package, you can't cherry pick which bits you fancy. The local Tourist Board would monitor standards (along with CAMRA) and award the trade licence - a plaque on the door - then market the pub as Traditional English Heritage Pubs. 

Some pubs would qualify immediately with little change. Soon others would want to join the bandwagon. It could turn into a movement.

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