Friday 17 November 2023


Christopher Hutt's "The Death of the English Pub" starts with a story of a suburban London pub. The public bar was home to a group of old blokes who enjoyed the odd pint while playing dominoes and cribbage. When the pub reopened after renovation, the public bar had been knocked through to the lounge and they were told their custom was no longer wanted. Some moved on to other pubs, but the group was broken up. A community had been destroyed.

A good, or even a halfway decent, pub is more than just a building retailing alcoholic drinks. It's a community of people. With varying ties of varying strength between its members. But it's a fragile thing. Once destroyed, it's almost impossible to recreate. The loss of a local is far more than the simple demolition of a building.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit. Because my own local, the Butcher's Tears taproom, isn't just under threat, it's on death row. The whole area is to be demolished and replaced by posh flats. If the original plans had gone through, it would have been knocked down a couple of years ago. The end of the year was a recent plan. But, due to legal challenges that has now been pushed out to March.

For more years than I care to remember, me and a few of my mates have been meeting up there once a week. Joined more recently by my son Andrew. It isn't exactly the same group every week. Often someone is travelling or otherwise engaged.

We've been wondering where will be our new local. It's not an easy decision. Lots of factors are involved.

While our group will be able to find somewhere new to meet. the community feeling will be gone. Overt the years, we've come to know the other regulars. If only enough to give each other a nod of greeting. Though with others we indulge in a little music criticism. All these little interactions are important, however trivial they may individually be. And will inevitably be lost as everyone finds a new drinking home. Almost certainly not the same one.

Butcher's Tears closure will be a heavy blow. But we've only been drinking there for under a decade. What must have been the sense of loss for those who had frequented a pub forty years? It must have been like the death of a close relative.

Me? I'm just going to enjoy the last couple of months. I'll worry about the future later.


Matt said...

I was reading that bit in the book myself the other day, after chatting to someone I hadn't seen for a while who used to work as a barman at my local. I was eighteen when I first drank there in 1989, and eventually ending up drinking there pretty much every Friday and the occasional Saturday night into my early thirties. Since then Holt's have turned a smoky community pub that didn't do food but had cheap beer, a snug full of pensioners, an unofficially men-only vault and a lounge frequented by young people and mixed age family groups into an open plan identikit dining place with inflated prices and a sterile atmosphere. The last straw was when they took down the dart board in the vault, they might as well have replaced it with a sign reading "No riff raff". I rarely if ever go in there now.

Anonymous said...

Matt my local abolished the bar and lounge in the early 1980’s but the design ensures it keeps a two room feel.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully those flats will be rented out on AirBnB, can't get anything in the centre

Russell Gibbon said...

Ron, I hear you. You have written very elegantly here about something that is deeply sad. And yes, think of all the pubs that have closed and the community links that have suffered the fate that you describe here. Community development has been my livelihood moost of my life. You are describing community lifeblood being lost. Oh boy, does it make make me warmly remember and appreciate with a big smile, my old local back in the day! Thank you.

Stephen O'Kane said...

Fucking "progress". Uber-capitalism wants to destroy anything good if someone else who already has too much money can make some more.

Does the brewery have plans to move elsewhere? Probably not much in the immediate vicinity, do you'll lose a local even if they continue.

I visited last year for a couple of hours, and thoroughly enjoyed the place, nice locals and a great barman

Anonymous said...

Ron, I was looking on the butchers tiers website. I see that they use open for mentors. In one picture it looks like the fermenter was outdoors. Do you know if that is the?

bigLurch Habercom said...

I remember the pub in the village where i lived as a teenager being done up and marketted as a traditional pub. I remember reopening night, "Good evening sir, Would you like to see the menu?. Er no thanks, Im here to have a drink. "Oh" said the greeter. "I dont now if we have any tables for that. "Oh" said I "Thats OK i'll stand at the bar like I used to", "Er" said the greeter. "Thats not allowed". "Really" I said "So much for the Traditional Pub speel then"

Ron Pattinson said...


the fermenters are usually inside the brewery.

Anonymous said...

I’ve seen the conicals outdoors, but Butchers Tears Instagram shows something fermenting
- LAFreeway

Ron Pattinson said...


I looks like they've wheeled the fermenter just outside the door because of all the foam overflowing.

Ron Pattinson said...


hopefully not. Amsterdam needs flats for local people, not holiday lets.