We all know what’s to blame for the fact that five pubs in Britain are closing down every day: the credit crunch, the smoking ban, the government and their cruel tax increase, the supermarkets and their evil low prices, the punter and their insistence on staying home.
I beg to offer an alternative point of view. My story doesn’t apply to all pubs by any means, but I’d hazard a guess that most of the places that are being closed down have more rather than less in common with the establishment below.
Tonight me and BLTP went to a rather fine concert by Low at Koko, a very cool music venue let down only by the fact that you have to pay £3.70 for a lukewarm can of 1664 if you’d like a beer with your music.
As with most places in London the noise curfew is 11pm, which means the band usually shuffle offstage around 10.40 and you’re outside 5 minutes later. You’ve had a couple of drinks, but thanks to the combination of not wanting to miss much of the gig and the fact that you’re paying £3.70 for a lukewarm can of 1664, you’re not pissed.
Just across the road from Koko is The Crescent, a standard format town centre chain pub. We got into The Crescent at 10.48. They told us that the bar was closed – chairs were already on the tables, and they were cashing up.
Now, I’m no expert, but if I was running a pub in an economic downturn which was claiming five pubs every day, and I was twenty yards away from a music venue that I knew would be turning out about a thousand punters onto the streets late at night, and I was the closest pub, I’d take an interest. Admittedly, if I discovered the gig had been some secret set by Westlife, I’d bar the doors and windows – but I might set up a lemonade stand outside. But if I knew the band in question had a target audience that consisted primarily of geeks and nervous middle-aged blokes, a few of whom had impossibly cute girlfriends dressed in Amelie-chic while the rest silently fumed ‘how come he manages to find a cute indie girlfriend and I don’t’, and I knew the majority of these people probably wanted one drink to chat about the gig before catching the tube home because it’s a Wednesday and they had to get up for work in the morning, I’d be seeing pound signs.
I’d be thinking, ‘you know what, since the Licensing Act of 2005, I can take advantage of flexible opening, and for the sake of paying, say, two or three staff to work later, I could probably take an extra £500 over the bar in half an hour with a minimum of fuss. And this happens two or three times a week! I’m sitting on a fucking gold mine!’
I certainly wouldn’t be closing the pub EARLY in order to avoid the unnecessary hassle of all these punters coming in cluttering up the place.
It’s not just this particular pub – though it’s a particularly striking example of this phenomenon – it’s a common experience BLTP and I have after gigs. It was just about understandable when pubs had to close at 11pm – they just set the clocks ten minutes fast to avoid the hassle. But when you have the option of staying open later, but you’d rather not have the bother… am I missing something? Or are some publicans their own worst enemies?