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You may not be feeling it much yourself, but things aren’t too bad at the moment. The economy’s growing steadily, unemployment is at a ten-year low, and companies have plenty of money to invest. Scarcely a day goes by without reading of some pub reopening after a £250,000 refurbishment. Near to me, the owners are planning to invest a cool £1 million on doing up one pub.
But, looking at the industry as a whole, you have to wonder what is the benefit of all this spending. Is it actually generating new business overall, or is it just dragging the same customers around the stock of pubs in an increasingly desperate giant game of musical chairs?
From my point of view, all that even the tattiest pubs need is a deep clean, new upholstery and carpets, and maybe a bit of new loose furniture. The vast majority of refurbishments, when they involve any structural alterations, end up leaving pubs worse, not better. Maybe customers are attracted by novelty, but that soon wears off.
The best pubs, in my experience, are those that haven’t been knocked around for decades, and benefit from continuity and familiarity. But maybe, if you’ve already thoroughly wrecked a pub once, you’re fatally committed to wrecking it again every five years. It’s like a drug where you have to keep on increasing the dose to get the same effects.