The little market town I live in has a 'Pound Pub'. It used to be called 'The Mayze' and once upon a time was a busy pub with a lovely secluded beer garden. The whole transition to a Pound pub literally happened over night but I think as the Mayze it hadn't been doing well for some time, I personally had it down to close or the Castle pub directly next door to close, both I thought were owned by the Yard glass pub company so I thought but the company behind the Pound pub is called Here for Your Hospitality who I think are under the umbrella of Sporting Inns, I really don't know... or care.
So as you cross the river into my town you're greeted by the Pound Pub sign which looks like it's been crayoned by a seven year old and completely goes against the impression the town gives on the initial bridge approach. The name is also something of a misnomer as an actual pint costs £1.50, a half costing a £1. Friends tell me there's a range of budget beers at £1.50 with cheap bottles and some more expensive drinks. The internal decor which is reasonably good hasn't changed, just the outside sign and the beer pumps inside.
The ethics and indeed the psychology of these new pubs worry me. Governments have sought to regulate beer prices to curb alcohol excess which is now of concern in a society in which cheap alcohol is readily available in many pub chains, shops and supermarkets. Where is the governments moral conscience on these new type of pubs? Nowhere to be seen as yet seemingly.
In town we already have several cheap pubs offering beer at around the £2 mark or just under, then there's the Wetherspoons chain who sell cheaply but I'll defend them by saying their pubs are generally nice affairs, some of the newer ones are lovely and they offer quality beers and food at value for money prices. Let's be honest who doesn't like a cheap pint? Sadly what we have in this country today in many areas are run down pubs selling cheap beer that attract, well to put it politely - the wrong type of people.
This new bargain pub economy is simple though, sell cheaply and sell more. The psychology is much more sinister and manipulative. Whether alone or with friends, you're going to be tempted to linger just to have one more cheap pint, then another and on it goes. These companies buy the beer cheaply as its coming up to its sell by date with the goal of selling it before this happens or maybe in some cases still selling it after, the reality being you're not getting the product at its best by any means.
Personally I don't begrudge anyone a cheap pint in these tough economic days but I can't help feeling the whole industry has shot itself in the foot in the past with the rapid greedy price rises only to have to make u-turn because people simply weren't paying or opting for supermarket priced beer instead. In my eyes the industry peaked around the millennium and has been in decline ever since. The last I read around 25 or so pubs closing nationally a week, though in fairness new ones are opening, I'm not sure on the closing/opening ratio though. Ideally I think the £2.50 - £3 marker is fair for a pint though obviously you're going to pay more for premium, craft or imported beers. At fair price I think people self regulate really, sure we're all going to have blow outs but we're also conscious of cost whilst partaking in normal social drinking, money being a finite and not an infinite reality for us.
The new Pound Pubs bring nothing to the table of the great British pub tradition which has been built on character and individuality, they are the McDonalds of the pub world. They will propagate binge drinking to greater irresponsible levels and can only serve to increase social problems. Alas such is the nature of the British high street now, festooned with pound stores, betting outfits, charity shops, discount clothing marts and money lenders. It's almost like the centre of towns across the land have lost all self respect whilst unprincipled businessmen and corporate clowns are determined to purloin every last penny from gullible pockets in the guise of value for money.