I came across a piece of "research" a while ago, and then lost it.
I searched for it again which was damned difficult as the mainstream meeja seem to have missed it entirely I suspect intentionally. I eventually found it.
Now normally I have some pretty nasty things to say about "research" and frankly this one is no exception. Why, you ask, isn't it something you'd approve of? Yes it is, but it annoyed me simply because it is just stating the bleeding obvious.
First and foremost, what is a pub? What makes it different from any other area where people might meet?
To the lonely person it is one place where he can wander in, sit down in the warmth with no excuses given or expected. He can order a pint and sit there all night. The [excellent] chances are that someone will strike up a conversation, and even if they don't he is surrounded by human contact and can enjoy the banter and laughter among others. It is a warm convivial place where he no longer feels alone.
But, you say, couldn't he meet people in the shops or the local coffee shop? Well, shops are OK if you want your conversation to last about ten seconds which is about as much time as the bored teenager behind the counter is going to give you. And coffee shops are more usually populated with strangers who [if you are lucky] might strike up a five minute conversation. And who wants to sit drinking coffee all evening?
Pubs are the social heart of the community. Everyone is welcome. You don't need an invitation or an appointment. You can walk in any time in the surety that your friends and others will be there for a bit of a discussion, a laugh and a bit of craic.
One of the greatest fears in life is isolation. There are reasons they use solitary confinement as a punishment. And isolation need not reside up the side of a mountain. You can live within a community and still be isolated as your neighbours have lives of their own and the best you can hope for is a brief greeting as you lean on your gate watching others go about their business. I have lived in the suburbs and even they can be extremely lonely places. Fear of isolation vies only with the fear of death, and when the fear of isolation becomes greater then suicide is the better option.
The village pub is a lifeline for the lonely. It is a pint and companionship on tap. It is a place of welcome any evening of the year. The very existence of the pub removes the fear of isolation.
But they put a stop to that.
Their ban on smoking was a clear sign that a lot of the lonely weren't welcome any more. They put the squeeze on the driving laws so the pub became inaccessible to many anyway. They are talking of raising prices so the lonely now can't access their local, can't afford it, and even if they could they are not wanted and have to stand out in the street.
Puritanism always was about taking the pleasures out of life