Some pubs remain resolutely traditional. No recorded music, no Big Screen TV, no one-armed bandits. Many of these still have a loyal following. Yet vast numbers of this kind were disposed of during the property price boom. It was more profitable for landlords to sell the pub to develop some “luxury” or even “affordable” housing. The adverse impact on the community was not of their concern. Other pubs have become, in effect, restaurants. These “gastro-pubs” offer a sophisticated menu with the choice of fine wines. They are a few steps up from the traditional pub experience.
Another way forward is for pubs to adapt so that they retain a traditional feel whilst providing some of the experiences demanded by their younger clientele. Tradition requires some combination of a mixture of regular customers, traditional real ales, seats by the bar, a real fire, a snug, friendly bar staff, a pub landlord who had a career before, crisps and nuts and perhaps a sandwich as the only food available (because people would have a drink before eating at home). The next step up requires reasonably priced basic pub food such as fish and chips, a Sunday Roast and to be fully modern, a vegetarian option.
I was at a pub last night in Camden Town, the The Liberties Bar, which provides the next level of diversions. It has sophisticated recorded music- from jazz and reggae to rock and electronic chill- downstairs, but an acoustic set playing upstairs. The upstairs room also hosts comedy evenings and other events. It is an intimate atmosphere with lego sets and crayons and paper on the table to permit creativity.
The bar downstairs is in the centre with comfortable settees around solid wood tables. The lighting is as for a theatre with tiny hanging spotlights changing the mood periodically. The pool table attracts a group of young musicians and their entourage laughing and flirting as they played. A birthday party arrived comprising blue-painted smurfs with accompanying head gear. It was all very cool, very fashionable, very London. It is part of a trend. Pubs have a future.