Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Death Of The British Pub

Now I'm not prone to sanctimoniousness when it comes to booze, I enjoy a tipple as much as the next man, I am a Mancunian after all. In fact last night we had parents and sister and other 'arf round and we probably need a skip to take away the empty wine bottles. Anyway, the point is that TalkSport's Jon Gaunt is thankfully away and the much more cerebral Ian Collins is standing in. So I listened a bit this morning.

The debate has been on why Britons are now drinking themselves into oblivion. Yes, there has always been a healthy drinking culture and long may it last, but there is now something a bit worrying about the nature of it. By that I mean the level and nature of the drunkenness and the type of alcohol consumed. As ever the blame can be put fairly and squarely at the door of the politicians.

Some years back the Tory government messed up the laws on pub ownership drastically reducing the number of pubs that breweries were allowed to own, all in the name of competition. Enter 'pub chains' such as Wetherspoons and others. The nature of the pub changed, many becoming 'bars'. The trendies also wanted a continental style 'cafe culture', let's make the problem even worse in other words.

Successive governments then proceeded to tax booze so heavily that 'continental cafe culture' became the 'booze cruise'. Not just from Dover, for people down south, but a cheapie overnight from Hull for northerners too. And for those who couldn't afford the booze cruise, or the pub, cheap and nasty cider and spirits were the answer. And if you've stocked up properly then why stop drinking it until you have to?

But the level of public drunkenness is down to the death of the pub. In my youth, all those decades ago, we used to meet up in the pub and spend the night socialising over pints of bitter. After the pubs shut we would go on to a nightclub and carry on drinking bitter. Trying to appear sober, despite drowning as many pints as you could physically manage was a badge of honour.

Nowadays too many pubs, especially in city centres, resemble nightclubs and the noise makes old fashioned socialising virtually impossible. Furthermore drinking beer seems to be for old biddies, unless it is some super strength foreign lager. So kids are now getting pissed on spirits, which are much stronger than beer and have much more radical results.

Oh for the return of the good old fashioned pub, stinking of stale tobacco, just like the Hare and Hounds (above) in Gorton.

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