British pubs are more than just bars. They are a focus of local community life.
Increasingly they are the only focus of local community life. The same politicians who bemoan the decline of community life are partly responsible for the closure of all the others – village schools, libraries, sub-post offices, and, indirectly, churches. It is true that changing social patterns are the primary cause of many closures – ten years ago, your contributor would go almost daily to the local post office with an armful of letters and packages of papers, nearly all of which are now sent by e-mail – but in most cases it was a political decision that provided the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The same is true of the traditional village pub. Alcohol sales have remained strong despite – or perhaps due to – the recession, but many prefer to drink at home or in soul-less urban nightclubs.
Yet there is still great demand for old fashioned pubs. The real problem is on the supply side, and this is where the politicians do their usual damage. High property taxes and the difficulty in finding casual bar staff, not helped by minimum wage legislation and other anti-employment measures, have made prosperous pubs marginal and marginal pubs unviable.
No wonder pubs are closing at an alarming rate.
Running a pub has never been an easy job. Most Britons, certainly most male Britons, have dreamt of doing it at some point in their lives – but it was always a dream that was unlikely to survive a half hour conversation with someone who had actually done it. Now even experienced licensees are leaving the business and not looking back. Their work ethic and knowledge are irreplaceable.
For those of us who believe that business is about more than profit and loss – it is also about meeting collective and individual needs – the damage to what is left of British community life is a double tragedy, but even the most ruthless economic Darwinist must disapprove when thousands of otherwise viable businesses are closed in defiance of the laws of the free market.
Once again, businesses are lost not because of supply and demand but because of state interference with them.