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I must say I have great sympathy with Pete Brown’s views on the design aesthetic of the new wave of trendy craft beer bars:
The amazing beers are not the only thing the above-named bars have in common. They also — every single one of them — follow a very strict design aesthetic that treats soft furnishings with the same contempt as a warm bottle of Corona. Not a single one has carpets.
They all have hard floors, hard chairs — hard surfaces wherever you look. I can’t even think of any that have curtains. Consequently, the craft-beer bar that has more than two groups of punters in at any one time is a place of booming, crashing, scraping, echoing cacophony.
The range of beers and the barstaff may be welcoming, the sensory experience on the palate may be amazing, but the experience on the ears is — without exception — painful.
I don’t know why we have to be in a sterile echo-chamber if we want to drink craft beer. I suppose it’s a coolness thing.
In a sense, of course, they adopt this hard-edged, industrial, open-plan style specifically because it establishes a clear differentiation from the sterotype of the “traditional boozer”. Comfort, cosiness and intimacy are just not part of the plan. So I doubt whether they’ll be answering Pete’s plea any day soon:
But here’s a plea: how about some nice velvet drapes or something? Or even soundproofing on the ceiling? Or how about someone, somewhere, combining the comfort of an old-fashioned pub with the range on offer at a craft-beer bar? Please?
Both Wetherspoon’s and Brunning and Price do the same thing to a lesser extent, deliberately eschewing many of the characteristic features of “old-fashioned pubs”. Unfortunately, what was celebrated thirty years ago as the essence of pubness is now dismissed as old hat.
Personally, I look back with nostalgia to the days of red dralon-covered wall benches. And, if my nearest pubs were an echoing open-plan craft beer bar full of hard stools and posing tables, and a keg-only Sam Smith’s boozer with little rooms, there wouldn’t be much doubt as to which I would adopt as my favoured local.