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Every year, the Good Pub Guide is published around this time, and often courts controversy with the accompanying publicity. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it has a very specific vision of what constitutes a “good pub” – namely an unthreatening, smart, middle-class dining pub. The occasional more basic and characterful establishment may occasionally get a look-in to add a touch of colour and authenticity, but they know very well what their readership is looking for.
This year, they have chosen to celebrate the transformation of pubs in the twelve years since the introduction of the smoking ban. However, its tone comes across as smug, middle-class triumphalism. What we don’t like, nobody else should be allowed to have, especially not the scummy plebs.
12 years since the introduction of the smoking ban in England, a pub guide has credited the initiative with transforming pubs and forcing them to become cleaner, brighter places with better food and with greater appeal to women and families...
“Those bars full of fug and male chat quickly became a thing of the past,” the guide notes. “Pubs adapted by installing smokers’ shelters and outdoor heaters, and licensees soon realised that by making their pubs smoke-free, they turned into cleaner, brighter places, and opened up a massive new customer base: women and families with young children who headed to pubs for a meal and even an overnight stay.”
However, even before 2007, there was no shortage of bright, family-friendly, food-dominated pubs. What has happened is not so much that the old working-class wet-led boozers have transformed themselves, as that they have closed down in huge numbers. The article says rather dismissively “It was predicted to be the death knell for the traditional British boozer and likely to lead to a slump in business and permanent closures,” but then goes on to contradict itself by pointing out that fourteen pubs a day are still closing. The amount of beer sold in pubs has fallen by 35% since 2007. As one commentator on Twitter says,
‘It was predicted to be the death knell for the traditional British boozer and likely to lead to a slump in business and permanent closures.

— Martyn Gorse (@MartynGorse) September 5, 2019
It’s rather baffling how the smoking ban is supposed to have made pubs more appealing to women, when a higher proportion of women smoke than men. And the very fact that they have chosen to return to the subject twelve years on indicates that it is still a live issue that has created an abiding legacy of bitterness. We haven’t moved on and put it behind us. If people choose to constantly reiterate their argument it suggests they do not feel that they’re standing on particularly solid ground.