Community Spirit – The importance of the local pub to the community

Community spirit is in decline.  We are increasingly becoming a society where you are hard-pressed to know the names of your neighbours to the left and right, let alone the people who live further down, or the next street along.

A community needs a hub, a centre, a meeting place.  It needs something that brings people out of their homes and puts them together in one place, to meet and socialise.  Without a hub, a community soon becomes isolated, introverted, separated.

In its heyday, the local pub excelled in the role of community hub.  People from all sub-sectors and walks of life, who at first glance might share nothing more in common than living in the same estate or district, would mingle at the local, and friendships would be built, new business opportunities would be created and romances would blossom. Whilst there is a definite place for the larger town centre venues it is the local pub that truly defines what hospitality is all about.

Sadly, however we have seen local pubs closing down in alarming numbers over the years. As the cost of living rises across the board, people simply cannot afford to go to the pub anymore, or at least not with the regularity that they once used to. The rising cost of alcohol in pubs is a major consideration in the public’s decision to stay at home.  Constant rises in duty, combined with the rising overheads required to run a pub, leave the unfortunate licensees no option but to charge the prices they do, in effect, driving away the people they are trying to attract.

Pub companies have made strides to combat the closure of their sites by diversifying the range of products and facilities they offer.  Food is pushed heavily at sites with the facilities to produce it, and it is rare nowadays that you find a pub where you cannot order a latte next to your pint of mild.  Coffee & cake mornings, live entertainment, playing host or sponsor to local sports teams and group meetings are all staples of a community pub. However there are other avenues a local pub could go down to encourage community growth including:-

  • the formation of a pub committee (by popular vote) to give the customers a voice in its future and a sense of ownership.
  • could the pub approve a bring your own offer, once a week? For a minimal fee, say £5 for glass hire and use of services, the poorer members of the community would be able to leave their homes and socialise with people they might otherwise never meet.
  • Equally a pub could offer a “buddy incentive” where a nominated designated driver can drink soft or alcohol free drinks for free on the basis that they act as an informal taxi service to other members of the community. This would be particularly beneficial to the older generations, especially those who live alone and might not see anyone with any regularity.
  • Hosting artisan markets, car boot sales and the ever popular craft beer and gin festivals makes great use of external spaces and encourages new customers through the door as well as supporting local start up businesses.
  • Already popular with town centre bars the introduction of competitive games can increase footfall into a pub and encourages different groups to mingle together all in the name of healthy competition. A local pub need no longer be limited to pool tables, dominos and a dart board, why not introduce a shuffleboard, indoor boules or even a skittle alley. Even the humble darts board has been reimagined with digital technology offering a range of games that can be played by all rather than just the local darts team.
  • If a site has sufficient space, could it offer prayer facilities in a designated room? Whilst many religions prohibit alcohol , the growing development of alcohol free products paired with prayer facilities and dedicated menu offers could encourage customers through the door who might never have previously considered coming in.

The ideas above are no doubt the tip of the iceberg and every local pub would need to tailor their offers in relation to the community in which they are based however, with a little foresight,  planning and willingness to embrace new ideas, the closure of the pubs could be halted; community spirit resurrected and the local pub reinstated where it belongs; as the true beating heart of  a community.

people sitting on chairs near glass window during daytime