The Micropub Association defines a micropub as a small freehouse that listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks.
Since Hillier founded the first micropub, the Kent-based Butcher’s Arms, in 2005, the concept has increased in popularity: there are now over 800 micropubs in the UK set up in buildings ranging from a Methodist chapel, railway arch and record store.
What’s more, there are twice as many micropubs in East Kent than there are JD Wetherspoons in the whole of Kent, revealed Hiller in the 2020 documentary Micropubs: The New Local.
Hillier said: “I hate bars because I hate queuing. I don't like music in pubs. I don't like TVs in pubs. I just want to talk to people, people just want to talk. So that's what I did.”
Bringing people together
In Micropubs: The New Local, owner of Walmer-based micropub the Freed Man Ian Goodban said: “Communities need pubs or a centre to socialise in.
“If you’re religious you’ve got a church, but if you’re a gregarious person and you like to go out and meet people, if your local pub’s shut, what do you do to replace that? Open a micropub.”
For Hillier, micropubs were all about friendship. “You get to know people, you're talking to more people in a micropub than you would do a normal pub because you're in a smaller area,” he said.
He added: “You overhear a conversation and then eventually, over a couple of pints of beer, you'll join that conversation.
“It’s about bringing people together, like pubs used to be.”
This makes a stark contrast with bigger pubs, according to Hillier. “In a big pub, they don't want you to just sit there, they want you to feed the jukebox and do everything else. They don't get pubs at all.”
In this way, micropubs helped bring communities back together. “Everyone’s heard about them,” said Hillier.
“Estate agents now are even using them as a selling point. When they do a write up of a house that's coming up for sale, they say it's close to a micropub just down the road.”
In 2015, former-IT-worker Richard Reeves completed a sponsored cycle round the UK’s first 100 micropubs, raising £7,000 for Alzheimer’s Society.
In Micropubs: The New Local, Reeves said: “That’s all thanks to the micropub community in the way everybody pulls together behind a cause”
Following the bike ride, Reeves quite his job to open the Little Green Dragon micropub in an old hairdressers in Winchmore Hill, London.