These days, young people are boozing less than we did (or do) and seem to have a preference for socialising in coffee shops, numbers of which are still on the rise while pubs continue to disappear.
Unfortunately, many people associate pubs with a negative drinking culture; they imagine invasive drunks, farting, swearing, sexist banter and a local clique that will look at them in a funny way if they walk in!
In most cases, this reputation is no longer deserved, pubs have become much more welcoming and quality coffee is to be found as often as not. Nowadays, pubs have the potential to be the English coffee houses of the 17th and 18th century, described as “places where people gathered to drink coffee, learn the news of the day, and perhaps to meet with other local residents and discuss matters of mutual concern.”
The absence of alcohol in these coffee houses undoubtedly helped to create an atmosphere in which it was possible to engage in more serious debate than in alehouses of the time, this led to them becoming great social levellers and cultural breeding grounds. The age of enlightenment, industrial revolution, newspapers and the stock exchange all had their origins in these coffee houses. And with less of a focus on getting drunk in pubs these days, maybe we are on the verge of a new age once again!
Today’s coffee shops are very different, users are unlikely to indulge in open conversation with each other preferring to hide behind laptops, smart phones and tablets, we do, however, still venture into meaningful conversation with complete strangers in pubs!
A sense of community can only exist when we get on the same page and share perspective. Community pubs are invaluable when it comes to this and yet remain the most under-invested and threatened of all of our social spaces.
"Communities need pulling together"
For pubs to survive as community life centres, we need to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable, not just habitual drinkers and weekend revellers. It’s a brave move for a host to ask a local to curb his language because it might put off new customers, but to succeed in this day and age, we have little choice – standards and impressions really do make a difference.
Standing up to antisocial behaviour can’t be seen as snobby if we are to get people out of the coffee shops and into pubs.
Communities need pulling together. This is where the community pub landlords come into their own. A great host is the common denominator, making introductions, organising gatherings, dressing the venue, balancing the atmosphere, spinning the conversations, maintaining the standards and keeping everyone’s glass filled!
Hosts really are the pub’s community leaders, a great one needs a great one.