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Germany's Iconic Beer Halls in Trouble...

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Oct 8th, 2018, 11:45 AM
  #21
 
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British pubs are declining for a number of different reasons, and the decline has slowed over the past five years

The main reason ISN'T falling demand, though. Alcohol consumption is still growing: few people ever drove to pubs so drink-driving laws have had almost no effect.

The biggest reason for pub closure is that the buildings are worth more as houses than as pubs - and we've got a huge housing shortage because our planning rules make house-building difficult. The second biggest is the greed of landlords: few pub buildings are owned by the people running the pub, and the booze licence is specific to the location, so landlords jack rents up. In the past 20 years at least, they've typically been able either to find a bigger fool if the first pub operator goes bust (the number of people wanting to set up as a publican seem inexhaustible), or simply sell the pub as a house.

The third major reason is rising commercial expectations, allied with rising minimum wages. 150 years ago my village (pop then c. 2,000) had over a dozen pubs: now (pop c. 3,000) it's got four - and wages have gone up, in real terms, a lot faster than the price of the booze they sell. Grafting on a food operation is tricky: pubs weren't designed with decent kitchens (so there's huge capital investment to add food on) and cooking requires far higher skills than pouring a glass of wine out.
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Oct 8th, 2018, 01:59 PM
  #22
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thanks flanner for you usual erudite take on these things.
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Oct 8th, 2018, 04:39 PM
  #23
 
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Originally Posted by flanneruk View Post
British pubs are declining for a number of different reasons, and the decline has slowed over the past five years

The main reason ISN'T falling demand, though. Alcohol consumption is still growing: few people ever drove to pubs so drink-driving laws have had almost no effect.

The biggest reason for pub closure is that the buildings are worth more as houses than as pubs - and we've got a huge housing shortage because our planning rules make house-building difficult. The second biggest is the greed of landlords: few pub buildings are owned by the people running the pub, and the booze licence is specific to the location, so landlords jack rents up. In the past 20 years at least, they've typically been able either to find a bigger fool if the first pub operator goes bust (the number of people wanting to set up as a publican seem inexhaustible), or simply sell the pub as a house.

The third major reason is rising commercial expectations, allied with rising minimum wages. 150 years ago my village (pop then c. 2,000) had over a dozen pubs: now (pop c. 3,000) it's got four - and wages have gone up, in real terms, a lot faster than the price of the booze they sell. Grafting on a food operation is tricky: pubs weren't designed with decent kitchens (so there's huge capital investment to add food on) and cooking requires far higher skills than pouring a glass of wine out.
I think you'll find that alcohol consumption in the UK is declining, not growing as you say. For example:
Britain's drinking habits revealed ? new figures

My anecdotal observations align with this. Work has become much more competitive and professionalised for most people with real careers and those who want them. Boozy nights at the pub still rage strong in some circles but those circles are narrowing and the frequency of indulgence seems to be declining for many. Within the workplace, behaviour and after effects were much more tolerated in the past "because we all did it". Increasingly people in their 30s are more likely to be doing 80 miles on their bikes or running a triathlon on Saturday morning than sitting there in a pub on Friday night on their fifth pint.

Anyway, overall demand for alcohol is different from demand for spending money in pubs, even if you could expect some level of relationship between the two.

You used the past tense regarding driving to pubs. "Traditionally" maybe you're right. But large swathes of people with money live in suburbs and don't put on wellies to walk to the neighbourhood pub for a (usually dreadful) roast Sunday dinner. Life doesn't work like this any longer. The more little neighbourhood pubs close, the more the remaining pubs become destinations to which people drive. No data, just common sense. The more that the UK's housing shortage is solved by building new sprawling developments on greenbelts or farmland (with no 19th century pubs), the more people drive. Look around at new developments. No pubs in sight. New developments in 1890 often had a new pub within it. Not today. If you have no neighbourhood pub and you have to drive anyway, you can go anywhere and increasingly people are ending up in restaurants rather than pubs.

Also related to food, the UK has had a huge growth in restaurant options. Largely driven by chains that are not so great but that are still head and shoulders above old school pubs that haven't caught on to better food. Pubs have had to learn how to be restaurants (i.e. pubs with a better food offer) just as restaurants in the UK have become much more competitive. Crowded space. For better or worse, over time the suburban family grew to prefer Zizzi, Pizza Express, Nando's, or Cafe Rouge over the Bricklayer's Arms, The Royal Oak, or the Rose and Crown. Now the chains are even having trouble, presumably due to over-supply. Many are poorly managed and deserve their fate. Many pubs are just lost in this. No longer contemporary and much less relevant to today's life.

Even just 20-30 years ago, housing was much less appealing than it often is today - little rooms, fuzzy TVs, sometimes no central heat, not much to keep people in. With the housing boom prior to the more recent declines and unease, people in Britain invested a huge amount in updating their homes - everyone has folding doors, open plan, £25k+ kitchens, big screen TVs, Netflix, and 3 devices for each person. Finally homes in which you can properly entertain friends or just entertain yourselves. Then there's the less affluent who can't afford £5-6 per pint or prefer to drink more for less money at whatever type of home they have. Or do the bulk of their drinking before the pub. Or those whose good time is more about drugs than drinking (either within the pub or outside of it). Working man's drinking pubs have been hit the hardest by closure and surviving pubs have become more like family restaurants. Not really where these types wish to hold court drink.

The female drinker is coveted by marketers of wine and booze. Pink gin and the prosecco worshipers are valuable consumers but do they really want to sit in dark and masculine pubs, which despite the decline of the working man's pub are often still dominated by men who don't know how to behave.
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Oct 8th, 2018, 07:43 PM
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I did wonder about the suburbs aspect. It’s a nice fantasy to walk to the local pub, but you’re right, the modern developments are very much suburbia, and driving seems very common in the UK. Far more common than I would have guessed, given the prevalence of trains and buses. But buses, of course, are annoying schedule wise. So I’d probably drive too.

I agree with your point about the professional world. That’s definitely my experience. My coworkers are a lot more likely to be running marathons or at the climbing gym on the weekends, and the ones who aren’t into that, are probably running their kids around. that’s a good point about the women too. I see a lot of marketing directed towards what I would assume to be my demographic, but the fact is, my girlfriends just aren’t going to the “bro” places. Sometimes it’s because of the clientele, but mostly there’s just no attraction. We can pop open that bottle of rose at home and binge watch golden girls or something rather than hockey or football on the big screen. (Which goes back to what you were saying about houses too—a lot of my coworkers have really, really nice home theater systems, and watching the game at the bar is often a downgrade.)
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Oct 9th, 2018, 04:32 AM
  #25
 
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Our local has a running club now. They have kayak nights, bike days. Very true about the suburbs.
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Oct 11th, 2018, 10:04 AM
  #26
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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/w...ederhosen.html

Interesting article about how Bavarian young folk are more and more wearing dirndls to beer halls at Octoberfest and elsewhere.
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Oct 11th, 2018, 05:11 PM
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And here I thought dirndls and lederhosen were only good for overly twee family photos. Should’ve remembered the unviversal “one must drink to dress weird, and dress weird to drink” rule.

Sometimes I wonder where NYT finds its editors. Who screens (and picks) crap like that?
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Oct 11th, 2018, 06:16 PM
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Munich has many stores that sell the traditional clothing and people wear them for many occasions. In Oberammergau, there is a store that sells the most beautiful traditional clothing. I still want a boiled wool coat. We have a big three day festival in Sanford (close to Orlando) this weekend. People will be dressed. The younger people go all out for Oktoberfest and it isn't cheap.
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Oct 11th, 2018, 07:50 PM
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Agree on the boiled wool coat!! I wandered into the neatest store in Munich, and just barely managed to talk myself out of the prettiest coat.

less the dirndl I find hilarious- I’d wear one for Oktoberfest too- and more the disco aspect.
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Oct 12th, 2018, 10:41 AM
  #30
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Another times article this week pointed out to prodigiously plummeting alcohol use amongst teens and young people - another reason pubs may be on downslide and places like Starbucks on upwswing?
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Oct 12th, 2018, 03:40 PM
  #31
 
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That’s interesting. The college bars (cheap booze) are one of the ones that do well around here!

The rise of starbucks—I think that’s a combination of wanting “healthy” fast food food, and the ever increasing need for WiFi. It’s really one of the few reliable sources of WiFi I can think of locally. And then also the simple predictability—I don’t like Starbucks coffee much but I’ll go there when I want coffee and the other options are dubious. Same way I’ll go to Tully’s. You know what you’ll get.
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Oct 13th, 2018, 04:24 AM
  #32
 
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The NYT pieces are not way off the mark.
It's just that some translate it as if all beer halls or pubs were on the decline.

What the article does describe quite precisely is that in places far away from the usual Rüdesheim/ Eltz castle - Rothenburg ob der Tauber - Munich- Neuschwanstein tourist trail village inns are suffering from declining number of customers.
Those pubs are a far cry from the traditional beer halls where you often barely find a place to sit in Bavarian hotspots, or the quaint pub in England.
They are closer in "quaintness" to those "locals' bars" on the US highways, next to the gas station and 7/11.

Those German village inns thrived in the 1950s-1970s when fewer people (and esp. younger folks) had cars to drive to the next town for more choices and larger crowds. And hardly anyone had cable or satellite TV. Most pubs would not serve any food, just beer and schnapps and maybe some very basic cold snacks.
Even when I grew up in the 1970s, the pubs in my village and all neighboring villages had either already closed or did so during that decade.
And they have not been missed, actually.
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