The Oxford mail had a report the other day about how pubs are losing business because of the smoking ban. In particular the landlord of the Plough in Abingdon says he is closing down because he has lost over 50% of his trade since the ban. However some other pubs are reporting an increase in trade. I admit I rarely go the Plough because there is no good reason for me to do so. It serves only one real ale (Greene King IPA) and does nothing to differentiate itself from other pubs. It still has the look and feel of a local boozer.
I like pubs where I can take my children and hang out for a few hours in the afternoon drinking real ale in a friendly environment and possibly enjoy some snacks or food.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise to read today on the BBC news website that Wetherspoons are discouraging children from their pubs by only allowing people to have two drinks in a pub if accompanied by children. Also see Stonch’s beer blog for more on this and my comment on BBC Have Your Say. I will be avoiding Wetherspoons pubs from now on even though they are generally good for real ales.
Another thing that annoys me is how difficult it is to get any food in town centre pubs at certain times of day, especially in the evenings.
The pub should be a social place where the whole family is welcome during the daytime. That is the only way you will get more middle class non-smokers to spend more time there and spend more money. If pubs continue to behave like they did before the smoking ban, discourage children and not have any real ale (preferably from local breweries) and not serve affordable bar food throughout the day, then of course they will lose customers.
Another thing I don’t understand is why pubs don’t have a more varied selection of bottled beers. It is fair enough that the cellars can only handle a limited number of draft beers, but bottles can be easily purchased and put in the cabinets behind the bar. Instead the only beers you normally see in pubs are just bottled versions of the same mass produced lagers that you get everywhere. Even when you see some Belgium beers they are normally the same readily available ones such as Leffe and Duvel, and you hardly ever see anything unusual such as a seasonal porter or selection of beers from local breweries.
If pubs do not go out of their way to encourage new customers, make them welcome and provide something you can’t get at home, then you can not expect new customers to magically appear. When you can buy a better selection of bottled beers in the supermarket and sit at home with friends then why go out to a pub that makes you feel unwelcome, only serves one beer, plays annoying music, fills every wall with TV screens showing football and makes you feel like a nuisance if you try to order food.