LAST week, the Hawick News featured an article in which Base nightclub owner Neil Gillies described the towns licensed trade as being “on its knees”. I must admit that the closure of many of the town’s pubs and clubs is something that has concerned me for quite some time now. This isn’t a problem synonymous with Hawick, of course. It’s endemic all over the country.
In 2008 alone, 52 pubs and clubs were estimated to be closing every week. Thankfully, by the end of last year that rate had slowed to 18. However, the future is still looking ominous for landlords, with a whopping 5,000 more public houses expected to cease trading by 2018.
My partner Eilidh will vouch for me when I say I love my local pub, in fact she would probably tell you I spend far too much time in the Station Bar. Truth be told, I’m sitting typing this in that very place. I’m not the only person with a local, though. It’s a traditional emblem of the working class.
How many times have you sat at work and watched the clock run down on Friday, impatiently waiting for finishing time, so you can rush off to your favourite pub and relax with a cool pint, or a chilled glass of wine?
I think we’re all fully aware of the problems arising from our nation’s binge-drinking culture, but putting those issued to one side for a minute, I often think what is overlooked is that there is much more to a pub than the spirits, liquors, ales and ciders.
The British pub to me is something special. It’s a place where lifelong friends are made and a location where many pleasant experiences occur. Whether it be to watch sport, meet an old friend or enjoy a work night out. I personally can hold my hand on my heart and say the local I attend has had a large impact on my life; many of my closest friends are people whom I have met in the pub.
I fear for pubs now, though, and ‘regulars’ it seems are a dying breed. The younger demographic, at present, do not have the same appreciation for pubs and clubs that my or the older generations do.
Sure the economic downturn hasn’t helped and the cheap alcohol available in supermarkets has been a killer. It has to be said that in Hawick’s case, Wetherspoon’s has probably added to the woes of local publicans.
Pubs are not for everyone, and the associated alcohol abuse is one of the biggest problems in society. But that said, isn’t it also true that the majority of people who visit the pub are simply out to enjoy themselves?
Mr Gillies urged other Hawick licensees to attend an alcohol and licensing conference in Galashiels next month. He sees it as an opportunity to improve the dwindling industry in Hawick, by directly dealing with the authorities who control the licensed trade. Perhaps other local publicans should take heed.