What makes a good pub or bar?
January 6, 2012
Some years ago this question was asked in a newspaper in the UK and many thousands made their suggestions. It made interesting reading and used much common sense. I doubt the list has changed much although times have changed as have fashions and desires.
Here are some of my thoughts on the subject using memories from those words in past times.
Let's call them pubs for the moment as to me a bar is the actual drinks area within a drinking place.
Most pubs are personalised by the owner cum landlord. It is usually he or she or a couple who decide the decor or theme. Of course if it is an old world place then original features will be mixed with other trivia and knic-knacs.
An important consideration is the actual people who run a pub and who are on show. Landlords were known as 'mine host' and for a good reason. If one has a dour and taciturn bloke or a crabby lady dishing out the drinks and food then the atmosphere will get fogged. With so much choice as to where to spend one's earned pennies and pounds most choose who they want to hand over the cash to. 'Does he/she deserve my money ?' is a good question. Originally the landlords were the first on the list of reasons. Think about your favourite pub and who runs it?
The position of the pub is important. Is it local? Is it hard to find? Is it in a safe area? In a big city then local pubs get local customers. Every university or college has popular pubs nearby.
The decor is another guide. Some like those trendy places as in the London Docks or Manhattan. Some yearn for beams and comfy old chairs. Others go for themed places with staff dressed as pirates or Red Guards. Some with a nautical theme. Some go along Irish or Ozzie lines and some even try German or French.
Cleanliness ! Ashtrays and tissues removed and toilets washed often. No bad smells or sticky seats. No people putting bare sweaty feet on sofas either. Doesn't really matter if the furniture is worn or even a trifle threadbare so long as it all looks... clean. After all a 400yo pub is unlikely to look pristine.
Will I meet friends there? This is important, especially in China where the locals don't usually talk with strangers. I am from a 2000yo village with 300 people and the pub is from 1216. I virtually knew everyone but if I went to Manchester or wherever there was often someone to pass the time with. Will my friends be happy to meet up in such and such a pub?
Safety is another thing to ponder. Pubs with cheap beer and mainly younger clients might be more likely to have the odd fracas? Remove the word might probably. Would you take your date there; or mother?
Drinks choice might be another factor. If only Coorls Light was on offer then would that be a plus? Can they make good cocktails might be a question by some afficiados. Yes, a decent choice is a plus.
Price comes at the bottom of most lists. There is not much point in selling 8rmb Carlsbergs in a shabby and smelly dump in a ghetto area. One has a choice of where to go. If one were to find the perfect pub with the decent landlord and lovely decor. If it is near home and full of friends. If it were comfortable but not too cosy that everyone fell asleep. Then the price of the drinks would not matter so much. One would expect to pay more in a Bond Street pub than at a Railway Station Arms. If the beers had arrived in Shanghai in barrels from Germany and were then trained 2000kms to SW China this might affect the price. If the place actually turns on the heating in winter and has obviously spent a fortune on making the pub welcoming then of course the drinks will be higher. Everyone was given a choice. Inflation is not helping here in China either. One could sit at home watching a pirated movie under a duvet with a warm Snow beer at hand to save money. One could forget the beer and save even more.
But at the end of the day a pub is a business and a haven for some. Success is how many choose to enter and sit or stand and order drinks. In fact if it were so bad no-one would bother. Another is just how long the place has been opened and survived.
I ask for other reasons why one favours one place to another.... WD