.. and as Adam Edwards suggests in the Telegraph that implies the death of the UK.
The talk in my Cotswold local the other night was, as it is most nights now, about an uncertain future. We were conversing in our overcoats because the pub cannot afford to turn on the central heating during quiet weekdays – its future is the least certain of all.
By closing time yesterday, half-a-dozen local boozers somewhere in Britain – where doubtless parallel conversations to mine had taken place – had closed permanently. Thirty-six pubs are closing every week. More than half the villages of England are now “dry” for the first time since the Norman Conquest and sales of beer in the pubs that are surviving are at the lowest level since the Great Depression.
This week’s announcement in the pre-Budget report that the tax on beer will be increased above inflation next year and for the next three years is the latest kick in the head for a glorious British institution considerably older and rather more respected than the House of Commons.
That is not to say that there is not support in the highest places for the hub of the community.
Six years ago Prince Charles launched the �Pub is the Hub� campaign. It is meant to help what are seen as essential amenities in rural areas. Despite his best efforts many traditional community hubs have called last orders. As they close, the villages and towns lose part of their life and attraction. The rural pub is more than just a business, it is at the heart of many rural communities.
However as the Times has noted the middle classes and the middle-aged have abandoned pubs in droves. As Richard Morrison wrote:
Of all the perverse phenomena in this strange old country of ours, the death of the pub is one of the oddest. Here we are, drinking ourselves to mass liver failure, alcohol sales soaring, city centres heaving each Friday and Saturday with kids retching out their eight pints of lager, and the A&Es full of people who did stupid things while drunk, or who had stupid things done to them. It’s a pathological boozing culture that might have shocked Hogarth. So you would have thought that the pubs would be counting their profits by the billion.
In addition to the increasing taxes on beer, perhaps the Internet is changing how societies function. Traditional media such as newspapers are having a hard time and that may be what is affecting the traditional British pub. As Mitch Joel has remarked, the next generation spends a lot of time in the digital world. As they game with their friends in cyberspace around the world, that does not leave much time to pop into the local pub.