Mick Dennison column: Pub’s silent enemy

Mick Dennison
Mick Dennison

The pub must face up to its silent enemy. As Christmas approaches there has probably never been a more dramatic and yet cruelly contrasting time to observe the world of beer in the UK.

On the one hand, cask beer is booming. An incredible and hopefully sustainable revolution in real ale is under way. There has been an explosion in choice, quality, consistency and crucially in awareness.

Nevertheless, on the other side of the coin, the great British pub has never been under more pressure. The pub is a hardy soul. It has fought off the Temperance brigade many times, survived innumerable wars, regulation and shortages, seen off the gin revolution and creaked through high tax regimes such as we witness today. Tough economic conditions are nothing new and whilst a suicidal off trade in the form of the big supermarkets is deeply unhelpful, it still diverts from the problem. The real enemy of the pub is more dangerous because it is silent and it is structural. Behavioural change!

There are many facets to this and price is clearly one of them. There was a time when the working man always had money in his pocket for “beer, fags and football”. Not the case anymore. The range, quality and price of take-home beer have all improved and modern comforts make our own lounges even more enticing. At the same time, the broader range of alternative entertainment and the rapid advancement of technology have all helped reduce the attractiveness of the humble pub.

Pubs can and should focus on the things they can offer that other venues simply cannot. A cracking pint of ale is certainly one of them. However, pubs can also bring people together. They can be a powerful force for good too as over £100m raised for charity last year shows. Human beings are naturally sociable animals; they need a place to congregate, to identify and to bond. Pubs fulfil this role.

Discover your local and all those people who do now. Your continued custom is well appreciated.