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….