I little while ago I mentioned a bit about my misspent youth.

Actually, I mentioned it over six years ago.  Doesn't time fly when you're having fun?

Basically the gist of my reminiscences was that I drank quite a lot.  Weekends had but one function and that was to down the pints.  Great craic.

I remember [most of] those weekends well, and they all had one thing in common – the packed pubs.  The order of the day was to start drinking early or you had fuck all chance of getting a seat let alone a table and a few chairs where a group could sit.  If you were a regular then ordering a round was easy.  You just waited to catch the barman's eye and that was that.  If you weren't a regular you had to fight your way to the bar and then wait patiently while the barman served everyone else but you.

I mentioned that I was in a pub last Friday.  I mentioned it wasn't my regular, which is small and friendly and shunned by a lot of the village.  This pub is more your modern Irish pub with televisions everywhere, piped music, no smoking, dark and full of chrome and glass.

We arrived there around nine.  It's a big place and was full of empty seats.  I would say there were around ten people at the most.  We went out the back where they generously provide very uncomfortable steel chairs for those of us who like a pipe with our pint.

At intervals, I went back into the pub for an order or a piss.  Two people!  Not the same two people [they must take shifts?] but from around ten 'til midnight there was never more than two people in the entire vast lounge.  And this was a Friday night?

I went back the next evening to see if my pipe had turned up [it hadn’t] and once again the place was almost empty – no more than ten at the most and the staff were just hanging around, picking their fingernails and staring at the silent flickering television screens.  And this was now Saturday night?  The traditional night for a pint?

Pints haven't increased that much since the seventies, relatively speaking.  They still cost an arm and a leg so there's nothing new there.  Some will blame cheap drink from the supermarkets, but unless you like gnat's piss beer the prices aren't that hectically cheap, and anyway drinking at home isn't for those who like to socialise.  Others will say it's the clamp down on drink driving.  Possibly that would deter some but not an entire pubfull?  Still more will blame the recession, but that's a load of bollox.  The decline started before the peak of the boom years.

It's strange though how the massive decline in pubs started at a particular time?  It started in early 2004, long before the crash of '08.

I wonder what the hell happened to cause that?



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The death of a trade — 9 Comments

  1. The decline in the pub trade and the changed habits of pubgoing customers has several causes. Irish men traditionally regarded their local as a home away from home. They smoked freely in their homes, so the 2004 law banning smoking certainly undermined the home-away-from-home concept.The expansion of motorised personal transport and the enforcement of stricter drink/driving laws has been another major inhibition on pub going.  I enjoyed a Jameson or two on the rocks at my local last night, and walked, steadily if I remember, back to my home about ten minutes away. No need for a car and the menace of a breathalyzer test.I could go on…but I leave further discussion to other regular commentators here. We all have our stories to tell.

  2. Happy to report that in my locals it's still standing only if you're late on Saturday.They are traditional pubs,no shiny chrome or fancy craps.Still have to smoke out the back to avoid plod though

  3. 2004 in Ireland? 2006 in Scotland? 2007 in England?  Mmmm, now, let me think?  What could possibly have caused pub numbers to drop off a cliff in those precise years, seeing as (as ban-supporters tell us relentlessly), it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the bans?  Well, you’ve covered (and suitably fisked) all the usual suspects, so let’s think now. 

    Poor pub management?  Maybe.  Perhaps all of a sudden, landlords inexplicably lost the ability to run the pubs they’d been running successfully for many years.  Perhaps they all, at exactly the same time, experienced terrible mental breakdowns, marital difficulties or some other trauma which rendered them incapable of running a pub any more. 

    Or what about social change?  Perhaps.  Maybe people suddenly decided in those particular years in those particular places that they didn’t want to go down to the pub for a drink any more and only wanted to go down for a full, sit-down meal.  Perhaps they’d been moving that way for a number of years, very slowly, but all of a sudden they collectively thought: “Hey, let’s all not go down the pub any more except when we want a meal,” and, overnight, stopped going.  Perhaps there was some sort of weird mass-hypnosis thing going on.  How very strange that it should just happen to be going on in each place just at precisely the time that the bans were imposed!  What a funny coincidence that is, isn’t it?  What a wonderful study for any Sociologists in our midst to establish exactly why everyone, at exactly the same moment, came to exactly the same decision.  Astonishing!

    Or perhaps the only pubs which have closed were the “lousy” ones.  After all, ban-supporters have been telling us for years that the only pubs which have closed were “rotten” pubs and that people had only been going in there to drink because they were foolish enough to think that they liked them, when in reality they were actually all just waiting with bated breath for a excuse not to go there.  Perhaps all of those customers, at the same instant, suddenly realised that the local they’d been visiting for years was actually one of those “lousy” pubs and didn’t deserve their custom any more.  Again, what a gift this is to Psychologists throughout the country to try and ascertain how all those customers came to this momentous decision at precisely the same time.  I’m amazed that there haven’t been countless studies into this superb manifestation of group consciousness!

    Or, lastly, perhaps pub numbers aren’t declining and are actually going up.  Pub landlords are actually enjoying a boom trade, with their bars packed to the rafters with hundreds of new customers flooding through their doors who’d been desperate for years to go out drinking but hadn’t been able to do so because of all that thick, choking smoke everywhere.  Maybe all those closed-up and redeveloped pub sites are just a figment of everyone's over-active imaginations.  After all, ASH et al do keep telling us that “bans are good for business,” and they’re – err – nothing to do with the pub trade, so of course they would know, wouldn’t they?  Perhaps statistics showing the pub closures are at an all-time high are just made up.  Probably by Evil Big Tobacco or some such other “vested interest.” 

    So, there you are then, Gramps.  Some perfectly plausible reasons for why the smoking ban hasn’t been the primary motivating force in the closure of pubs.  All have been cited by ban-supporters with completely straight faces, so they must be valid.  I, for one, can’t see why you seem to think there’s any connection between the two … 😉

    • Indeed, I did hear somewhere there were millions of non-smokers just waiting to floods the pubs after the ban.  Maybe they all changed their mind or else they all go to the one pub somewhere?

      I stand corrected.

  4. I have to disagree with you on this one. for me the fall off started on new years eve 1999, when they wanted to charge a fee just to get in the door. this was even to customers who had drank there all year, and for many years previous.

    this may be the first time,to me at least, that more people drank at home than the pub.


    • Did all pubs start charging entrance fees in 1999?  I have never paid anything more than a cover charge when there is some decent music being played, and that was a rarity.

      • There you are, grandad!  Another one: Pubs closures skyrocketed in 2004/6/7 (depending on location) because they asked for silly money on New Year’s Eve 1999.  Honestly – I’m amazed that you didn’t work that one out for yourself.  Smoking ban? Pah! What a silly idea!

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