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Monday, August 11, 2008

Last Call As UK Pubs Close In Record Numbers

"When you have lost your inns . . . you will have lost the last of England" - Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Modern Freemasonry began in the pubs and taverns of London. So it with great sadness that I read over the weekend that more than 1,400 pubs in Britain closed last year, and more than 6,000 are expected to be shuttered within the next five years. Nationally, an average of 4 pubs shut down every day. Once source claims that more than half of British villages are dry for the first time since the Norman Conquest in 1066.

The culprit? Some are trying to blame cheap supermarkets selling beer and a frankly small increase in the beer tax. But the real reason is the recently enacted smoking ban. Smokers have been hounded out of their favorite haunts, and their friends have gone with them. Instead of socializing at the bar, they pick up a cheap 6-pack and stay home, away from the clucking of the anti-smoking crowd—who have NOT flocked to support the now smoke-free pubs. They have killed off businesses they never intended to set foot into in the first place. And a social activity that has been the backbone of English working class society for literally centuries has been destroyed.

The European Union has enforced the smoking ban all across Europe, removing the decision from local lawmakers, citizens and business owners. And the trend of pub closures all across Europe is increasing at an alarming rate.


  1. We have the same problem in Ireland (the first to introduce the smoking ban in Europe) but the problem here is not so much the smokers, but the drink-driving laws.

    Most pubs in Ireland outside the cities require some form of transport to get to.

    With both a drop in the social tolerance of drink-driving, increases in the chances of getting caught, and increase in penalties, people are choosing to drink at home.

    There is good public transport in the cities, and between the cities and towns but there is practically no public transport in rural areas.

    The smoking ban was predicted to cause widespread closure, but many pubs now how covered and heated outside areas for smokers to congregate and in my experience most people "pop-out" for a cigarette before rejoining the main group.

  2. Whilst researching my recently published book on pub history I was astounded by the number of pub names connected with freemasonry.

    I'd expected royalty, religion and national figures to be influences but had not even considered freemasonry as a possible source.

    The Beehive, Compasses and Goat are just three out of many I found. But the medieval mason was a member of an elite class and highly educated. It should not have been a surprise therefore that he'd want to mix with like-minded professionals after a day's work.

    Let's hope we hang on to all our British pubs for a long while to come. They've been with us for over 2,000 years and it would a shame to lose them now.

    Elaine Saunders
    Author - A Book About Pub Names

  3. Eventually the EU will legislate itself out of business.

    Or the peasants, er taxpayers, will rise ala 1789.

  4. The pub trade in the UK has been changing for some time, the recent spate of closures has also been made worse by the rocketing price of property (real estate) in the UK.
    The current lack of customers can be accredited to price sensitivity, many pubs were deriving their main profits from food, this market has been suffering from the 'credit crunch' as people eat out less and compensate for rising costs elsewhere in their lives.
    Also a pint of beer in a pub frequently costs in excess of £2.50, most places over £3.00, equivalent to $5-6, buying the same quantity as take out from a supermarket or store could only cost you £1 or at the very most £1.50.
    On the flip side individual pubs that keep good beer, that is locally sourced are bucking the trend and staying afloat.
    Rural, or village, pubs have been hard hit, many of these small communities have lost all of their local services, post office, shop and pub in recent years as people travel further to buy at large supermarkets.
    Rest assured, there are still plenty of pubs here serving good beer, there are now less bad ones!

  5. Interestingly, the smoking ban in Alberta has caused an increase in the number of bars in urban areas, but rural area bars revenues have dropped.

    You wonder if more home bars will start popping up.

  6. I am always pleased when my betters take the heavy burden of making my own decisions off of my shoulders. That bit of sarcasm out of the way, we have some realities to face.

    Laws such as these have their genesis in small groups of citizens. For example: In Grand Rapids, MI there is what I affectionately call the "booby ban" which requires all ladies working in "gentlemen's establishments" to be covered (pasties at the minimum). This was not voted on by the population but was quietly pushed through the municipal government. This law was to do something about protecting the moral fiber (which assumes that I have any moral fiber to speak of) of the community or some such non-sense.

    Smoking bans are coming up all over Grand Rapids as well. Many bars have done so voluntarily. I have no problem with that. There is still rumbling about making it mandatory.

    As to protecting my health. If I am drinking my sixth Singapore Sling of Cuba Libre I am obviously not too terribly concerned about my health.



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