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05-04-2013, 16:21
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One of the enduring themes of this blog has been how many rural and village pubs have in effect transformed themselves into restaurants and turned their back on the casual drinker. This is something that has been echoed (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/pubs/9972311/Posh-country-pubs-arent-catering-for-walkers-in-muddy-boots.html) by Kate Ashbrook of the Open Spaces Society, who complains that too many pubs no longer welcome walkers, horse-riders and cyclists. “You want them to have a nice stone floor and informality, a place where a bit of mud won’t matter because they will sweep it up later,” she says. To that you could add bikers, rural workers and indeed anyone who just wants to have a quiet pint and read the paper.
Clearly in today’s marketplace, serving food, and good food at that, is essential to the viability of most pubs outside urban centres, although the surviving classic wet-only rural pubs such as the Traveller’s Rest (http://realpubsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/travellers-rest.html) and the Red Lion (http://realpubsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/red-lion.html) remain some of the most quintessential elements of our pub culture. But it isn’t that difficult to be a food-led pub and still set aside an area near the bar with a few benches for customers who just want to come in and have a social drink. It’s equally easy to have a menu that offers light meals and sandwiches alongside expensive gastro creations, something that, to their credit, the Brunning & Price (http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/) chain do seven days a week. Indeed, while their pubs are unashamedly upmarket in ambiance, I doubt whether any of them would turn away groups of walkers or cyclists.
It’s also the case that many dining customers will still value going in to somewhere that still feels like a pub and has a group of regulars nattering by the bar.
On the other hand, I had to laugh at this comment on the original article:
Ramblers in my area of the Chilterns turn up to our wonderful local pub en masse i.e. between 10-15 people at lunchtime therefore taking up all the room downstairs, buy a soft drink/tea or coffee, order a sandwich, sit down, pay their bill individually (and to the penny) then leave. They spend very little and are the first to complain about anything and everything - they would be far better off in a tea shop or cafe along the canal. Leave the pubs to the locals and those that want to be there!

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