Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Nowhere for the grown-ups.

First of all Labour freed up the licensing trade, and said pubs etc. could be open for 24 hours a day if they wanted.

That was nice, everybody said, no need to apply for late licenses and so on, it'll make it easier for clubs and pubs and late-night venues. People will be able to go for a drink, and won't try to rush drinking several pints as quickly as possible before the closing time bell rings. It'll make people more responsible, more careful.

So, people took advantage of being able to drink for 24 hours a day, they could choose when to go and have a drink because there was no need for the pub to close at 11:00 pm if the landlord didn't want to.

Somewhere along the line came the dire warnings - drink is evil, drinking too much will kill you. They even managed to reduce the amount for what was 'too much' - which kept the statistics at the right level.

Of course the smoking ban arrived too, even though they'd promised it wouldn't happen. People could still go to a pub/bar/club any time they wanted to but couldn't smoke indoors, they had to go outside. Not many people really want to stand outside in the rain, not even the most hardened smoker and certainly not those who have never before smoked a cigarette outside, on the street.

So, after having a meal at home, going out for a quick drink and a natter with other 'locals' stopped being a nice thing to do - and local pubs started paying the penalty, and closed. Places that had been local 'watering holes' for hundreds of years - closed, possibly for ever.

But the 24 hour licensing remained - an illusion of freedom.

Remember Mr Brown's article, written when he was a mere 11 years of age?

It does make Mrs Rigby wonder if the initial illusion of freedom was nothing more than a sleight of hand concealing the long term plan to destroy the traditional pub trade, and only because a certain abstemious Presbyterian preferred to see all drinking stopped, all easy socialising stopped and along with it a 'British' tradition - because the pub is/was quintessentially British.

Have you noticed that, apart from the trendy establishments catering solely for the youth market, many of the remaining pubs tend to be 'family friendly', with kiddie menus offering burgers and bangers and, of course, a 'vegetarian option' along with healthy fruit drinks?

The pub now seems to be the place to take a family for a meal, it is no longer a retreat for adults - who now have nowhere to go for a couple of hours in the evening, after all the caf├ęs and coffee shops have closed.

Have you tried visiting your still open 'local' recently - for a quiet drink with some friends? What's the betting that if you do you'll find a large room set out as a restaurant, not a comfy chair in sight, and nowhere for the casual drinker to sit and chat, and outside meal times it will be empty.

Quite a social revolution isn't it, and it only took a few years.


Macheath said...

'because the pub is/was quintessentially British

I'm not sure you shouldn't narrow it down a bit further.

Things may have changed a bit since I left the ancestral homeland, but I never set foot in a Scottish pub until the age of 18 and my mother has never done so. Pubs were exclusively the preserve of the adult male and, with the exception of city centres, student areas and a few brave restaurant hybrids, I'm told many still are.

Agree with you on the restaurant front - my local fits the description perfectly and recently added to its appeal by giving 20 customers food poisoning on 'Seafood Night'.

Witterings From Witney said...

Methinks you only wrote this post Mrs. R to get me on a rant about pub closures, politicians, 'abstentious' (?) charities and all the other idiots that have managed to ruin not just pubs but our bloody country too!

Please do it again, won't you? I am about to explode as the present collection that are called a government seem no better than the last lot.

Mrs Rigby said...

@ Macheath
You're right, some pubs always seemed 'exclusively male', whilst others had more than room so could cater for almost anybody.

Haven't seen a pub/eaterie with a dart board for ages, and dominoes and crib boards have vanished too.

@ WfW
Not intentional I assure you, it is curious how this has been allowed to happen though - almost without a murmur.