Once upon a time, in a land near, nearby, there were magical castles on nearly every corner of nearly every suburb. Some were small and cosy and wrapped around a corner like a comforting hug. Others were tall and imposing and featured intricate stonework and bold entrance foyers. Some were bland and characterless while others were welcoming and intriguing.
They were pubs and we loved them. They offered a place to seek friendship and shelter, food and a warm fire, a meeting place and a watering hole. They served the needs of people who sought the safe and familiar surrounds of their ‘local’. These were places where meetings and wakes were held and where plans were hatched and social reforms dreamt of. Victories were celebrated and losses commiserated.
Off-premise, take away and supermarket-sourced beer was a thing of the future and besides, drinking at home alone was thought poorly of.
Some kept doing what they did best and are still flying the flag for good business practice today while others sought instant profit by latching onto every flash new trend that came along until no one knew what kind of pub their local had become. An increasing ability to travel distances to enjoy a night out probably didn’t help some of them either.
As our needs for entertainment changed, pubs included band rooms to host live music which gave way to the cheaper option of a disco, then a lone DJ who eventually became more expensive to book than a six-piece rock band – including their alcohol rider!
Somewhere along the way, many of them became soulless pokie dens and beer barns and places you didn’t want to be leaving after midnight while others seemed to give up on what they did well as successive new owners chased the latest fad. From Sumo Suits and Dwarf Tossing to Wet T-Shirt nights and Grab-a-Granny Thursdays the ‘old days’ were left behind and many closed down or relied on bottle shops, Bingo and function rooms to keep revenue flowing.
Did they move away from us or did we leave them? As first e-mail, then mobile phone technology and texting led us into a new of world social media, did we forget the importance of solving the world’s problems over a pot or two? Was it simply too easy to grab a six pack and send out a text to gather at someone’s house, out on the deck or in the newly renovated ‘Man Cave’? Or simpler still, was it too tempting to sit drinking alone while telling the world how to think in 140 characters or fewer?
Sadly, somewhere along the way and perhaps due to new and cheap ways of purchasing alcohol, home entertainment and a sense that old style pubs were losing their way, we lost many of the old haunts. Some have been done-over as bland beer barns with Bundy on tap and lots of bright sparkly things to distract the weary from their sad lot while some are now apartment complexes or supermarkets.
I’ve been to a few places lately that remind me of what pubs used to be. Places where good folk gather and commune and do all those little things that really do make us a ‘society’* – things like natural, unaffected surroundings, acoustics designed for conversation and comfortable furniture (yes, I probably am ‘getting old’) and, most importantly, a good beer choice.
I even suspect that there are more of these places beginning to pop up where once their ilk stood.
That would be nice.
*Though, seriously, would it kill a few of us to leave the phones on silent for an hour or two, just for shits and giggles? Just to see what pleasure the company of other civilised humans can be?