Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - September 2003
You can reach the centre of Britain’s premier brewing city without passing a single pub
EVERY BEER DRINKER in Britain has heard of Boddingtons - the so-called Cream of Manchester. And anyone who knows much about the subject is aware that the Manchester area is home to the biggest concentration of established independent breweries in the UK. So the visitor approaching Britain’s premier brewing city by road from the south along the M56 and Princess Road may be surprised that he doesn’t pass a single functioning pub between the Greater Manchester boundary and the Mancunian Way – although he will pass a large brewery that produces no decent beer.
The Mersey Lights is long gone, replaced by a petrol station and a drive-thru McDonalds; the Royal Thorn (latterly “Royals”) has been flattened for an office development, as was the Oaks some years ago at the Barlow Moor Road junction. The Princess, a striking 1930s building, is currently closed, boarded and burnt-out, and highly unlikely ever to reopen. Large communities on either side of the main road are now more than half a mile from the nearest pub.
These pubs were not in blighted inner-city areas, and their demise goes against the widely-held belief that all that is needed for a pub to succeed is a lot of customers living within walking distance. Patterns of pub-going have never matched that stereotype, and have increasingly tended to concentrate on clusters of pubs in town and village centres. To either side of Princess Road, in Chorlton and Didsbury, the pub scene is booming and new bars are opening.
Plenty of pubs do thrive in residential areas, but they cannot afford to take a captive market for granted. These oversized, echoing drinking barns probably never gave anyone much of a positive reason for visiting them and have now paid the price.
Staying away from alcohol can damage your earning power
THERE WAS CHEERING NEWS when researchers from Stirling University revealed that, on average, moderate drinkers earned over 17% more than their teetotal colleagues. Even those defined as “heavy drinkers” consuming more than 50 units of alcohol a week still took home 5% more than the abstainers. Clearly people who are sociable and have a flexible attitude are likely to be more effective workers than those who apply principles rigidly regardless of the circumstances, a lesson that employers who wish to crack down on even very light drinking by their staff would do well to heed.
The research also suggested that going to the pub with colleagues after work can help people’s career prospects. However, this finding really has less to do with alcohol consumption as such than with the fact that the worker who stays behind to brown-nose the boss is more likely to be promoted than his colleague who needs to get away promptly to pick up the kids. In any case, while after-work drinks can become a way of life in city centre offices, in most workplaces they’re simply not on the agenda except on rare special occasions.