A man walks into a pub, orders a pint, pulls out a paper and sits there quite contentedly enjoying a good beer and the previous day’s news.  In modern times, the newspaper is likely to be replaced by a smartphone or tablet and the news will be up to the minute, but the principle is the same.  I’ve wrote many times about how the pub is a social centre of the community, a hub linking people from different backgrounds, where people find others who can help them.   But it is also a place where people go for “public isolation”.

Some people might say if you are going to sit and not chat to anyone else why go to the pub and just stay at home.   There is a huge difference, the pub offers people social interaction if they want it, at home alone it is not a choice but foisted upon them.    People have a go at Wetherspoons for many reasons, but you go in on a weekday lunchtime and you will see a good number of pensioners sitting there having lunch, a proportion on their own.  Why not, for £5 you can get a pint of decent real ale and dinner and it gets you out of the house, you have people around you and the social interaction of ordering your dinner.

Social isolation is an increasingly common issue in the retired population with too many of them not seeing another person for a week at a time or even longer.   Talking to the barman, the food server and other staff may not sound like a lot to many of us, but to some it is social interaction they crave all week and they see the same people each week, visa versa staff get used to seeing the same customers on certain days of the week.  This isn’t restricted to pubs, cafes can serve a similar purpose and I see this at my cafe of choice, the “pie and peas cafe” in Halifax market.    The William IV in King Cross also does brisk trade with pensioners (both solo and in groups) when I visit to have dinner with my wife during the week, again at £5 for a big, well cooked meal can’t be blamed.

Increasingly you see people using pubs to do work, Wetherspoons winning a lot this trade with free wifi and cheap coffee.  I was sitting in Calans just before Christmas, enjoying a couple of halves one afternoon, writing a column for this very paper on my tablet, occasionally breaking for a chat with one of the people I was sharing the high bench table with before returning to my writing.  The right place gives inspiration and if you writing about beer then there is no better place to write about it surround by real ale pumps and people enjoying the same product.

The purpose of the pub is changing, it has gone from a refuge for the common man after work and on weekends to having to cater for families, groups of both sexes and non drinkers to name a few.   Different pubs have chosen different routes.  Some have embraced all of these, some have decided to make some concessions.  I went into the Shepherd’s Rest last week for the first time ever on a walk to Sowerby Bridge, a large multi room traditional bar, they don’t allow children during the week with limited hours allowed at the weekend.  Serving 8 real ales (including a number of Osset brews, it being one of their houses), it serves a good pint and has a friendly atmosphere.

Another pub in the town allows children until early evening / tea time each day, namely the Works.  Neither is right or wrong, but it is how they want to conduct business and the amount of time they have been trading shows it works.   The Works sells a similar number of ales with just under half being from Timothy Taylor, one could say their “house brewery”.    Take a small micropub, a chain pub and two real ale pubs, what will they all have in common?  At the right time, you will find the bloke with the paper (or electronic equivalent) and a pint in the corner happy with their own company in a room containing others.  All successful pubs have the same thing in common, good drinks, good value and good atmosphere, adding optional nice well priced food.  People go to the pub for many reasons, that is their own business, but the pub has been venue of choice for 2000 years and I can’t why it will not in the future as venues change and adapt or decide stay the same.