Time at the bar: Why are pubs disappearing from Britain’s streets?

They were once bastions of cultural heritage, but their numbers have been dwindling for years, with small independents bearing the brunt of changing drinking habits. Mick O’Hare looks back at the history of the Great British Pub and finds not all hope is lost

Saturday 14 December 2019 12:47
The number of pubs in the UK has fallen to 40,000 from about 75,000 in the 1970s
The number of pubs in the UK has fallen to 40,000 from about 75,000 in the 1970s

We’re going down the pub,” sang London punk band Sham 69 in 1978, and back in the Seventies they had plenty of watering holes to choose from: about 75,000 throughout the UK.

Today their drinking options would be more limited. The decline of the “Great British Pub” has been well documented and arguments over the hows, the whys and the wherefores have raged for years. There’s no escaping the fact that at one stage five years ago 25 pubs a week were shutting their doors permanently.​

But is there a chink of light piercing the gloomy interior of the boarded-up hostelry? In August, the Greater London Authority (GLA) released data from its annual pub audit. And guess what? Figures for pub numbers in London had stabilised – nay, even shown a small increase. Pull those pints and order a double chaser!

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