Last orders: calling time on the pub

Sunday 20 October, 1.30pm until 3.00pm, Frobisher 1-3 Contemporary Controversies

Despite anxieties about teenage boozing, young people are in fact drinking less alcohol than ever before. And they are particularly unlikely to drink in pubs. Indeed, pub-going in general is in decline, and some 50 pubs are closing down in Britain every week. Various factors are cited to explain this decline, including the smoking ban as well as the economic situation. But what will it mean for British culture if, as some predict, the pub dies out completely? From a health perspective, the demise of the pub might seem like a good thing, since alcohol consumption is certainly associated with a number of health problems. But regardless of whether people are actually drinking less or just drinking at home, would we be losing something valuable if our pubs were all converted into health centres?

From the village inn to the neighbourhood boozer, pubs have traditionally been a focus of community life. And crucially, going to the pub was a rite-of-passage that took young people from gawky teens to confident adults, learning how to conduct themselves in public, as citizens and as members of their local community. Arguably, drinking in pubs was a civilising force, certainly in contrast with swigging from a bottle in a park or bus shelter. So will the death of pubs arrest the development of the young? Should we seek to save the pub, or indeed revive an ailing pub culture? Or is the boozer best consigned to history along with other unloved aspects of ‘old Britain’?


Neil Davenport
sociology and politics teacher; writer on culture; former music journalist

Chris Hackley
professor of marketing, Royal Holloway University of London; researcher, alcohol policy

Dr Mark Hailwood
lecturer in British History, St Hilda's College, University of Oxford; co-founder, Warwick Drinking Studies Network; author, Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England

Christine Thompson
manager, UK government relations, SABMiller

Peter Smith
director of tourism, St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London; co-author, Volunteer Tourism: the lifestyle politics of international development

Produced by
Neil Davenport sociology and politics teacher; writer on culture; former music journalist
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