Our pubs are under attack. At least that’s how it feels from where I’m sitting (a park bench).
Forces of piety are moving out of the shadows and into the beer light, emboldened by austerity, economic uncertainty and a shaky grasp of epidemiology. Dissemblers fill the chambers of our government, intent on stealing away that which makes life worth living. Pubs, mainly.
First up, there’s the new Tier 2 rules which require you to order a meal with your drink when visiting a pub. I’ve thought about this more than I really wanted to, and I still can’t work out why this should be. Is the idea to tie me to a table? To stop me getting drunk? To discourage the pub crawl? Or simply to make things more difficult for publican and customer alike?
Who knows? If only they deigned to tell us. What it does seem to be saying is, Yes, sure, you can go to the pub but don’t enjoy yourself too much. One step away from, We don’t think you should waste time in the pub.
Waste time in the pub? Why, that is the best time. It’s other times that fritter your life away: The supermarket, the school run, email, spreadsheets, commuting, going to bleedin’ Tile Giant on a Saturday afternoon…
It’s part of our national identity to sit on a red velvet-covered stool, engage in free-form ideation with pals over a pint and then forget everything on the way home. It’s what makes us who we are. Lovable idiots.
Yes, throwing wet-led pubs to the dogs in favour of pubs that are able to act like restaurants has the stench of puritanism about it. Wouldn’t it be safer to allow someone to sit outside with just a pint, for example, as opposed to sitting inside having a meal? If the meal requirement is backed up by research, then, please, just tell us what it is. I’ve looked, but I can’t find the science. Pubs are way behind homes, schools, churches, etc, as places of Covid transmission. Close the churches! Get worshippers to buy a (tran)substantial meal!
But alarm bells really started ringing this week with the news that The Squirrel, Maida Vale, is to close permanently. Once a favourite haunt of Joe Strummer, the pub was ‘allowed to close’ by Westminster Council, in part due to a report that said Covid made the pub unviable.
As Westminster Councillor, Tim Roca tweeted, ‘On that basis all pubs in Britain are unviable.’ To which we’d like to add: ‘Fuuuuck!’
Westminster planning committee approved the loss of the Squirrel pub tonight. Mainly because of a report that said Covid has made the pub unviable.
Add to this that some pubs, good pubs, indeed excellent pubs – such as The Lamb on Holloway Road – are being forced to crowdfund to survive the trade downturn caused by lockdown and tier restrictions, and the unease about the future of pubs only increases.
What’s the agenda here? Do away with wet-led pubs? All pubs? To alter society, the country; to make it more respectable? Or to put it another way, worse?
What can we do? How do we fight back?
Well, for starters we continue to buy draught beer(map here) from our favourite wet pubs (and breweries). We drink it in the cold, in parks, on benches, off bin lids. Or, I suppose, at home, if you’re able to wait that long.
In Tier 2, we go to the pub. We do buy that meal. And plenty of beer to go with it. We embrace drinking alone. We take our other halves out for the night. We sit outside with five chilly mates. We ask for long johns, hot water bottles and balaclavas for Christmas. We do, we will, we must.