The British Pub: You dont know what you’ve got until its gone

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2020 by kmflett

The British Pub: You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone

As there is a continuing high level of COVID-19 infections there is also a media focus on pubs as the source. Indeed, some are. In fact anywhere that sees people meet together, workplaces, transport, cafes and pubs are more likely to see transmission.

How likely it is to be the case provided legal safety measures are in place is important to keep in mind though.

There remains media hyperbole about thousands rushing to the local and getting drunk. No doubt some do but most who use the pub regularly know its core reason is much more than just selling drink.

In fact drinking in a pub is drinking in a socially controlled and licensed environment. These days it’s also a socially distanced space.

There is no evidence that pubs are a particular source of COVID-19 infection and what appears to be a hastily cobbled together SAGE document arguing that they could be is not a serious study but instead a series of reports often bordering on the anecdotal, that at some point in a bar, in another country, whose safety precautions are unknown, infection took place.

One suspects the work of temperance campaigners here who believe that keeping pubs shut, preferably for ever, is a good thing. It’s a point of view but why not say so and see if it an acceptable one?

Government restrictions in all four of the UK nations mean pubs are either completely closed currently or can open in only very limited ways. Hopefully this will end during the first months of 2021 but the damage done to pub businesses, staff and infrastructure will mean that numbers of pubs will close.

Arguably given that social interaction is a key way of COVID-19 infection spreading keeping pubs shut until there is a vaccine with proper support is one way forward. However there would be little point in doing that if schools remain open as they are and a lot more is not done to enforce working from home where it’s possible.

Beyond that while the pub is not for everyone it is a key social place, where people mix and chat (again not at the moment) and the fabric of life is woven as it were.

John Harris in the Guardian makes the point well here:

One need only look for example at radical working-class history in the first half of the nineteenth century to see that from the Luddites to the Chartists the pub was a central meeting place. This was perhaps particularly so after the 1830 Beer Houses Act which led to a considerable increase in pubs, perhaps a little like the micro-pubs of today.

The idea of the ‘pub as the hub’ of local community activity has long been one promoted by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). CAMRA was  founded in 1971 to combat moves by the big corporate brewers to replace traditional cask ales with bland artificially carbonated keg beer. To its credit, it has been one of the most successful consumer campaigns of recent decades and  has also been active in trying to stop pub closures. Recent legislation in England, supported by CAMRA, allowing pubs under threat to be classified as Assets of Community Value (ACV) has helped.

Traditionally many pubs have supported a variety of social activities ranging from pub games through support for local music, theatre and other performing arts, to support for local football clubs and beer festivals. A pub which recognises its important role in the local community and offers well-kept beer at a fair price is far more than just a boozer. It’s a social location and inclusive of community.

Of course that doesn’t describe every pub, there are an infinite variety, the good, the bad, the indifferent. But they have a vital role in society. At the height of the temperance movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century temperance pubs and hotels were opened. They didn’t of course sell alcohol (or not much anyway) but with or without drink people are social.

Phil Mellows @philmellows has written a very good piece on the subject in the Morning Star on this.

One Response to “The British Pub: You dont know what you’ve got until its gone”

  1. “It’s a point of view but why not say so and see if it an acceptable one?”

    Probably because they know the answer.

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