The Morning Advertiser’s event staff did a marvellous job in facilitating the coming together of hospitality professionals from all over the country. The event, for the first time, was held in its entirety in pub and bar venues, an appropriate innovation given the history of the past 18 months.
The operators who hosted us in Leeds did an amazing job to ensure we were well entertained and that at no point did anyone go hungry or thirsty. The cocktails and beers flowed and old friends and new got together to “chew the fat”, share war stories from the Covid years and, most importantly, laugh and make lots of great memories together.
Life was good again
As I enjoyed this wonderful experience, I looked around the room and heaved an enormous sigh of relief and joy… we were back! It suddenly seemed that life was again good. That may have had something to do with the complimentary cocktails, but indeed it was much more to do with the good company and feel-good factor that came from sharing a drink with friends, in the great surroundings of the pub.
And that, I realised in an instant, is what we do and is the key ingredient to our success and our survival. As a pub industry, we often get hung up on the beers we have, how we pour them, what new spirits have come onto the market, do we have enough low and no products on our shelf? Is the playlist giving the right ambience and so on.
However, it struck me as I stood looking around that all these things, although important, pale into insignificance against the main purpose of pubs – to provide an opportunity for great socialisation.
Still seeing off supermarkets
It doesn’t matter whether you are old or young, male or female, in a group or on your own, as soon as you walk into a pub you will find a friend, a soul mate to talk to, someone who will listen to your woes or tell you a joke or a funny story that stays with you and warms your heart long after the meeting has passed.
Pubs sell alcohol but their key product is socialisation on a grand scale. Which is why pubs and bars have survived the many years of competition from supermarkets selling cheap booze and why after the construction of home beer shed pubs and Covid barbecues with friends in the garden, people are returning to their local in droves – because no matter how hard you try, nothing quite beats striking up a conversation at the bar with a complete stranger as you wait for your drinks to be poured.
As we travelled from bar to bar in Leeds, I struck up conversations with many people who started as strangers and, by the end of the day, had become my confidants, chums, problem solvers and pub friends. I might see some of them again, others not, but it doesn’t matter – that’s what happens in bars.
The pub is back. Long live the pub.