Wednesday, 31 May 2017


There comes a time in a lot of people's life where they they try to visit every pub in their home town.  For most people it happens by accident.  Somebody knows somebody who drinks there.  There's someone there who you want to meet. Or maybe, god help you, you're curious and want to see what it's like.

Me, well, one day I was drunk and thought "Oh, I've never been to Ye Olde Blue Bell.". I was with my sister that day, and she'd never been either.  My sister has been in some of the most godawful dumps in Preston.  I mean, places that rats wouldn't go to because they're too dark and unsanitary,  But no, she'd never been to Preston's only Samuel Smith's Pub.

So I announced we were going there. To be honest, I was scared of going in on my own. I heard there was someone with "mental issues" on the end of the bar who shouted at everyone who came in.  But I was emboldened by 4 pints, so we went there.

I did warn her beforehand "Look, don't swear.  Sam Smith's has a no-swearing policy. And don't expect to find Fosters there. Sam's has also has a no-brand policy.  But it's CHEAP."

When we got there, she agreed it was cheap (her pint of lager cost £2.10), but in true millennial style she was disconcerted by the place.  It wasn't the cheapness, the old codgers populating the bar, or even the lack of swearing.  No.  It was the lack of "brands".

"I don't see anything I recognise" she said.  I explained Humphrey Smith's modus operandi and his lack of outside brands. But no, she was actually scared by being in a pub and not seeing anything she knew.  She approved of the prices, but was upset by the fact she had no frame of reference about what it was like.  "I'm not coming here again." she said.

Well, Humph's old codger clientele will keep him going for a few years, but what then?

Friday, 12 May 2017


The British High Street and the British Pub. Both institutions in well-publicised decline.  But, as we all know, somebody's decline is somebody else's opportunity.

In many towns, where there were once bustling streets, there are now rows of empty or transiently-occupied shop units. Like missing teeth in a mouth, they don't engender the best impression.  But with long-term vacancy comes (usually) cheap rents. And where a traditional pub would lack long-term viability, a micropub can suit this situation down to the ground.

Micropubs are funny things. Often fitted out on a shoestring, they generally have a peculiar layout.  Indeed,  it's a singular experience drinking behind a former shopfront in all its unforgiving plate glass glory.  But with their minimal overheads, they are usually cheap. And this, combined with the lack of music, lager and general modernity tends to attract the, shall we say, more senior end of the drinking public.

If you go to a micropub and listen to the conversation  (which is easy as nobody can tell you're doing it) you will hear endless rambling tales of trouble moving around, lack of alcohol capacity compared to 40 years ago and, sadly, the sheer bloody tedium of trying to fill the days now they have nothing to do and ever fewer people to do it with.

It could be, as one popular beer Twitter person says, the world of out-of-home drinking is downsizing as an adaptation to a declining market.  And it's true - if you want a quit pint and don't want to go to a Wetherspoons, then the micropub is often the only game in town.  But what happens when there aren't enough enough codgers who were socialised in olde-tyme drinking left to keep such places going?

What then?