Imagine then, that selfsame Minister encouraging everyone to “recognise the value of their local pubs, restaurants and hotels which are important parts of our communities”.
Imagine too, if you will, the storm of criticism from the anti-alcohol lobby in the present climate if such a statement in support of pubs were made here.
Perhaps the game is given away then when I quote this passage in its full context: “From the cosy pubs at the heart of rural communities to the bigger venues in our towns and cities that serve thousands of people every month, pubs are an important part of Scottish life”.
So stated Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice at the launch of research commissioned by Molson Coors Scotland into the Scots pub scene which we take a look at in our main story this month.
The report, Local Pub: Local Hub?, finds that since 2007 over 700 pubs have called time in Scotland. Yet 32 per cent of respondents to the survey visit their local at least twice a month while 41 per cent of males believe it’s important to have a pub within walking distance of their home.
But intentions, as we know, can fall far short of actions. And as is the case here, the recession in Scotland has led to people there having less disposable income and yes, the on-trade there is suffering similar hunger pangs to those being experienced here in Ireland.
Yet, as is the case here, pubs that have raised their game appear able to survive. These pubs have taken their business personally in terms of the welcome extended to their customers; they’ve expanded both their repertoire and their offering.
It all echoes Bill Wolsey, who heads up Beannchor Inns, NI’s biggest pub chain. His comments in our 1&1 this month are worth contemplating when he states, “Publicans north and south are either going to have to be cleverer, more fleet-of-foot around the design or else the pub industry is going to die”.
‘Super-service’ seems to be an appropriate term for the type of product offered by successful pubs these days. And many more continue to overlook one of the other relevant findings of the Scottish survey: that more than half of all women in Scotland now visit the pub.
This speaks volumes about how welcoming they’re made to feel there. Can the Irish licensed trade claim similar gender progress? Can you?