The great British Pub is the mainstay of each community in the UK, right?
Well these days that statement is so wrong.
A pub is a shortened name for a Public House. These places used to be the traditional drinking establishments of all those so inclined over the age of 18 in the U.K. and many chancers who were underage.
If you watch current soap operas in the U.K. such as Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street you might think that the local pub is still a thriving place; the hub of each community.
In reality though, pubs are closing down left, right and centre.
In the 18th Century the great British pub was called The Heart Of England.
English Soap Opera's PubsClick thumbnail to view full-size
So where oh where did it all go wrong?
My Northern England City
The city where I live used to have a thriving fishing community.
When these fishermen arrived home from a long sea trip fishing Icelandic waters they had money in their pockets and a thirst to quench. There was a pub on every corner and often another in between all willing to help them spend their hard earned pay.
These men were called three-day millionaires locally. They came home from a trip at sea on a three-day break with a wallet stuffed with banknotes and a huge thirst to quench.
Fishermen were notorious for getting blinding drunk, spending all their hard-earned cash and some, then returning home to beat their wife. Non of this is to be applauded but, when the fishing trade died in our city, so did a large part of the pub trade.
Times change though and there are many other reasons why the pub culture began to die.
Drink till you drop
In 2005 the Labour Government of the day relaxed what had been strict licensing laws. Instead of having a beneficial effect on pubs it added one more nail into the coffin of some establishments.
The problem was that in inner city pubs in particular excessive drinking, day and night, meant that all too many pubs were full of violent drunks; drunks that would then spill out onto the streets.
Pubs had hoped to change the mentality of their customers into treating their establishments differently. Many pubs had begun serving meals and were hoping to create a family atmosphere but sadly most failed.
Stub it out
In the summer of 2007 a smoking ban in public places in England became law.
This was the biggest negative for British pubs overall.
Smokers were no longer allowed to smoke in pubs but would have to step outside to indulge their habit.
Fine in summer weather but what about winter?
When I was a child in the fifties people were allowed to smoke anywhere and everywhere. Buses only allowed passengers to smoke on the top-deck and woe betide a non-smoker who had to venture upstairs for a seat. The air would be as thick as a deep fog with rows full of coughing passengers.
Over the years smoking gradually became more and more restricted. In the end we began to treat smokers as if they were criminals which is strange as the government likes to reap the rewards of cigarette taxes.
Making pubs non-smoking may have been the right choice but it was not a good economic one
Not long after the smoking ban we went to a wedding party in a local hotel.
What a boring evening.
Ultimately there was only myself and one other non-smoker sat together while everyone else sat outside on the side of the main road smoking, in spite of bad weather.
Many pubs have tried to introduce smoking shelters outside their premises but on the whole these have failed.
With cheap booze available in supermarkets almost 24/7 there is just no competition.
Smokers are choosing to have a drink or two in the comfort of their own homes rather than down the pub.
Teenagers years ago would try to get into the pub when they were underage to have an alcoholic drink. It was part of their rite of passage I guess.
But these days teenagers often prefer to experience recreational drugs such as Ecstasy and Mephedrone rather than a swift half down the pub.
The future of English Pubs
Most pubs now offer a restaurant service and this is what helps them survive financially.
English Pubs were so very English and those pubs still exist today in some villages, tourist locations, towns and cities.
There are many fewer pubs though than in the past and many are still going out of business on a regular basis.
Perhaps the true, traditional English Pub which was the heart of the community only exists in the 21st Century in the mind's eye of romantics and in history books.
In British soaps the local pub is still packed out every night
- Hub on Pubs: Great Hub Pages Hubs on Great English Pubs
When I think of England, and "things English", on of the first that comes to mind is ye olde English pub. Almost every novel I have ever read (except for those of the Bronte sister's - I don't think they were...
© 2010 Ethel Smith