Opinion

My Shout: Pubs are platforms for communities

By Mike Clist

- Last updated on GMT

Communal hubs: 'We as an industry must embrace the need to diversify our businesses,' says the BII's Mike Clist
Communal hubs: 'We as an industry must embrace the need to diversify our businesses,' says the BII's Mike Clist
Mike Clist, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), discusses the vital role pubs play among friends and communities.

Three and a half years ago I had a prostate cancer scare. A blood test was followed by an MRI scan and a biopsy. Luckily for me, it turned out not to be cancer, but it was a very scary time.

Sitting in the pub one evening, I found myself chatting to four of my friends about my troubles over a pint or two. It prompted all four of them to make appointments with their doctors to get their PSA levels tested, and one came back positive.

Having gone through the same process as me, he was grateful that he knew someone who had been there. He wasn’t as lucky as I was, and it turned out he did have prostate cancer – but catching it early is key and he is now in remission.

It got me thinking – without the pub, I wouldn’t have had anyone to share my worry with, but also my friend might not have gone to his doctor until it was too late. Pubs are so much more than just places that serve food and alcohol.

Pubs provide a meeting space, a chance to have a chat and for many, the only human contact they have is with the friendly face behind the bar. It may be just small talk about the weather, a bit of lively discussion about last night’s match, or something more important, but those small moments of connection with another person are what makes pubs so vital.

Another one of my friends, very sadly has dementia. He comes to the pub every week, and every week we tell him it’s his round. Every week he tells us he paid last week. We all laugh about it, but the reality is that as a disease it brings many other challenges. He can be irritable and sometimes unreasonable, which is out of character, but dealing with this is just one of the many skills that bar staff employ on a daily basis.

Pubs facilitate the opportunity to celebrate, commiserate or just catch up with friends, family and even strangers instead of feeling lonely. They are places where people look after each other – staff and customers alike. They are unique in their ability to bring people together.

At the BII, we want to focus on all of the great things that pubs bring to our communities. We continue to support partners from the Alzheimer’s Society, Pub is the Hub, the Licensed Trade Charity and many more, and we want to shout about the good that our members are doing on a daily basis.

We hear too often about pub closures, but the answer to this problem lies in what we do best – bringing people together.

We as an industry must embrace the need to diversify our businesses.

Start that coffee morning, support that local sports team, bring the community back into your pubs. You may just find you have more money in the till as well as the knowledge that you are providing something that no other business can – friendship.

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