We Might Have A Clue Here About The Death Of The English Pub

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Strangely, the Observer manages to not pick up on this rather large clue. Bit of a pity but then it’s not exactly fashionable to note such these days.

Accrington and its surrounding district have lost 50 of 95 public houses since 2001. But why?
Helen Pidd and Rob Davies Nationally, more than a quarter of British pubs have closed since 2001. Photograph: Mark Waugh for the Observer
Fifteen years ago, taxi driver Basharat Khan would drive past the Hyndburn Inn on Accrington’s Blackburn Road and marvel at how packed it was. He never went inside – he doesn’t drink – but he noted its reliably heaving beer garden. These days, Khan is inside the building most days: six years ago he converted it into a halal butcher’s shop, which he runs with his son, Waqar. Instead of pints of bitter, the pair sell 3kg of keema (mince) for £10.50 and give out Indian sweets rather than peanuts to their customers. The Hyndburn Inn is one of 50 pubs in the east Lancashire district of Hyndburn to have closed since 2001, when the borough boasted 95 – a drop of 53%. Only Newham in east London has lost a higher percentage in that period, according to official figures released last week that show more than a quarter of the UK’s pubs have closed since 2001. Khan thinks he knows why: “The smoking ban. I’ve been driving a taxi for 29 years and since the ban people don’t go out nearly as much. They think ‘sod it, I’ll stay at home.’” It’s a difficult claim to prove, at least when seeking reasons for the prolonged nationwide plunge in pub numbers. While the 2007 ban may have hurt pubs with a high proportion of keen smokers, other establishments will have welcomed new patrons who previously shunned smoke-filled rooms.

That flood of non-smokers did rather fail to appear. However, there’s another clue there. Did you spot it?

He never went inside – he doesn’t drink

Has there been anything of a change in the surrounding population?

The usual resident population of the Lancashire-12 area was 1,171,339. The largest ethnic group was white (92%). The black and minority ethnic group made up 8% of the population. Numerically, there were over 90,000 black and minority ethnic people in the county. Within Lancashire-12, Pendle and Preston had one in five people (20%) who were black or minority ethnic. In Burnley and Hyndburn the rate was 12%. In Rossendale, whilst the percentage of BME was lower than in these four districts, it was still above the rate of other districts at 6%. Similarly in Lancaster the BME population was just over 4%. The numbers of people who are BME were by far the greatest in Preston, where there were almost 28,000. In Pendle there was a BME population of 18,000. A further 11,000 and 10,000 BME people live in Burnley and Hyndburn respectively.

Accrington apparently being part of Hyndburn for these purposes. Import large numbers of people who don’t drink and we might expect the pub population to fall.

Note that I’m not saying this is a good nor a bad idea. That’s up to ones’ own prejudices. But can’t we at least agree to use logic and reason to analyse matters? If we change the habits of the population by changing the population then those things which depend upon habits will also change….

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Quentin VoleJonathan HarstonTDQ46surreptitiousevil Recent comment authors
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Firefoxx
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Firefoxx

Hmm I wonder why they might not be brave enough to point that out.

I worked for a huge pubco during the smoking ban introduction and to cut a long anecdote short there was no impact on custom numbers from the ban. In the first 2-4 weeks numbers were down and then they realised that all pubs had smoking areas, and the numbers went back up to the same levels as before.

Samarkand Tony
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Samarkand Tony

A bit of your own prejudices showing here, Timmy. By your numbers, the ‘darkies’ – who, by the way, are far from a homogenous bloc of teetotallers – don’t make up enough of a proportion of the population to cause that effect. The actual reason is almost certainly that the area had an unusually high proportion of smaller pubs before, and the UK pub market has changed to favour fewer bigger pubs. Somewhere has to be towards one end of the curve, it just happens to be Hyndburn. This is, in fact, another Lake Wobegon all-the-kids-are-above-average story about the Graun… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

The ‘darkies’ in this part of Lancashire are almost entirely Pakistani Muslims – maybe not all teetotallers in real life, but you won’t find many down the pub. And while the BAME population may be ‘only’ ~10%, that’s an average. Many of the town centres have areas that are closer to 90%, and that’s where the pubs are closing.

Certainly it’s not the only problem facing pubs, plenty have closed around me in the Chilterns where dusky-hued faces remain a rarity, but there are areas of the country where it’s a not insignificant factor.

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

Much as I’d like to blame immigration or the smoking ban, it just ain’t so. Out here in the sticks there are no immigrants of the kind who don’t drink. The pubs are still closing though. Big pubs, little pubs and especially ‘wet pubs’. If you don’t sell mid-posh food you can’t make enough money off drink alone. The enemies of pubs are takeaways, off-licence and supermarket booze, satellite TV and all the other ways we have to spend our money and time.

surreptitiousevil
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surreptitiousevil

Drink driving becoming socially unacceptable and better policed may be a significant contribution to the “in the sticks” view of the larger problem.

Q46
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Q46

‘But can’t we at least agree to use logic and reason to analyse matters? If we change the habits of the population by changing the population then those things which depend upon habits will also change….’

But if ‘we’ did that, ‘we’ wouid also have to admit the extent to which immigration brings change to the host society, and the cost. And that would never do because immigration can only result in streets paved with gold and sumptuous times for all.

TD
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TD

It’s been quite awhile since I was last in the UK, but what I recall are lots of pubs with cute names, and while some were charming many were dark dismal places. Still, the beer was affordable (it’s been a while) and it didn’t cost much to spend an evening in one, and having had an Irish father I am familiar with that Brit type need to have a couple of pints to loosen up a bit. Changing demographics might have something to do with the declining number of pubs (though in the US I know plenty of middle easterners… Read more »

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

When I was in Japan last week the smoking ban is the other way around. Smoking is banned *in* *public*! and allowed in private premises or in corralls in the corner of parks. I went to a few bars, cafes and restaurants and was ill at the amount of smoking occuring – worse than I ever used to be in the UK.

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

Ethnic minority. Ethnic is an adjective not a noun, minority is a noun not an adjective.