Monday, 26 May 2008

What has happened to the good old English Pub?

Since the smoking ban I have been to the pub three times. This is not unusual for me, I usually go three or four times in a year, I'm hardly what you would call a regular at my local.

Initially I was appalled at the fact that smoking had been banned in pubs, I thought it would be devastating for the trade. I thought that people would - given the choice of staying at home with cheaper, supermarket bought, beers and wines and being able to smoke to their lungs content - they'd steer well clear of the less than atmospheric public houses. Initially I was wrong. People persevered with the ban, went outside in all weathers to smoke their dreaded weed, but still enjoyed the social interaction of a visit to the pub.

Now, almost a year after the ban the situation has changed. The very people who demanded a ban, who moaned constantly about going home stinking of fags, who said they would only come back to pubs once the ban was in place - and who did return for a few occasions - now realise that pubs without smokers are not really very jolly places at all. And so they stay away - or visit even less frequently than they did before the ban.

The reason? Pubs have no atmosphere. Instead of reeking of old smoke, they now emit an air of stale beer and sweat. The goody two shoe brigade now miss the very people they hounded out. Let's face it, at least they could have a conversation with a smoker about how nasty it was, and how they hated them, and how they wish they'd ban it altogether - now the smokers are gone, or are outside, the anti smoking lobby have no one to moan at, the pub is empty, they sit in their 'clean air' snug and berate the fact that there's no one to talk to, that people just don't come in any more and that the drinks have got more expensive. I wonder why?

I visited one such pub yesterday afternoon. A year ago, on a sunny Sunday, this particular pub was a thriving centre for the village in which it is situated. Seats were filled with a mix of smokers and non-smokers, meals were being served, the football would be on a widescreen TV, the banter was good, you could barely hear the cash register ringing up massive takings above the conversation in the room. Yesterday afternoon, a beautifully warm and sunny Sunday, there were five people in the pub, two of which were family of the landlord, one was an old vagrant who was eventually ejected for forgetting himself and 'lighting up' and the other two were myself and my mate. The Guinness was £2.70 per pint - a year ago it was £2.37.

Depressing. We won't be going back. The smoking ban is yet another nail in the coffin of Britain's sense of 'Community'.

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