Popping into a local British pub for a pint of ale is much more than just a beer in a bar. While the “quaint factor” lures many visitors into pubs with clever names and signage, low ceilings, and cozy fires, it’s the cultural experience that keeps them until closing. In Britain, pubs are as integral to tourism as the royal family.
Pub are often considered the heart of their communities. Brits visit pubs regularly not only for a drink, but to gather and socialize, relax, and converse. Yet these favored establishments are closing at a distressing rate of 29 each week. A disproportionate amount of those folding are in rural villages.
Image: Jim Linwood/Flickr
Pub landlords chalk up their losses to the current economic climate, the smoking ban instituted in 2006, and continual beer tax increases. According to the British Beer and Pub Association, cheap supermarket beer is a major culprit — in 1979 95% of all beer transactions occurred in a pub, today that figure has dropped dramatically to 50%.
Gimmicky theme pubs, sports bars crammed with televisions, and “gastropubs” (pubs with an emphasis on gourmet offerings) are moving in. Carol Brundle, proprietor of The Coyote in west London’s Grove Park, had to sell her pub after eight years. “People’s tastes in general have changed over the past 20 years. The reason many of the ‘traditional’ pubs are closing is because they are not offering what customers want. The pubs who have adapted with changing menus and decor are the ones still thriving.”
But the traditional pub still has its supporters. Action groups such as Pub is the Hub and Use Your Local recognize the traditional pub’s valuable contribution to society and help communities support their pubs. The influential Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is also encouraging citizens to join their “Save Our Pubs” crusade and is fighting tax increases on beer in pubs.
Thankfully, a good number of Brits still appreciate a proper pint and have the utmost respect for the pub tradition. The prospect of our pubs truly vanishing may not be imminent, though changes are inevitable.
Go on and do your part: visit a traditional British pub. Just in case you need some inspiration, we’ve selected 10 of the best for you, five in London and five in Edinburgh. Cheers!
Part of a NileGuide Special Report: 25 Destinations to See Before They Change Forever.