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Pub of the future Pt.1

A positive look at how pubs are changing for the better, and how thriving pubs might look in the not-too-distant future. In this first instalment of Pub of the Future Katie Mather focuses on themes of accessibility, inclusivity and justice. Katie explores how the diversification of our pubs is key to maintaining their survival in our communities post-covid.

Illustrations by Lucie Cooke

Katie Mather 

A beer blogger-turned-food and drink writer, with regular work featured in Beer52’s Ferment magazine and Pellicle magazine. Co-owner of Corto, a neighbourhood beer, natural cider and wine bar in Clitheroe. Loves pubs.

Pub of the future Pt.1

A positive look at how pubs are changing for the better, and how thriving pubs might look in the not-too-distant future. In this first instalment of pub of the future Katie Mather focuses on themes of accessibility, inclusivity and justice. Katie explores how the diversification of our pubs is key to maintaining their survival in our communities post-covid.

Illustrations by Lucie Cooke

Emma Inch

A CAMRA member since 1997, John is volunteer with a keen interest in the technicalities of beer dispense, a GBBF bar manager, editor of Manchester’s Beer Buzz magazine and sits on CAMRA’s Technical Advisory Group.

Happy Pub Illustration

When you think of your favourite pub, what are the first images that come to mind? Your favourite seat by the window? A settling pint of Extra Special Bitter? A chat with the bar staff or meeting friends? Our pubs are community hubs. Over lockdown, we realised more than ever the important roles pubs play in our lives and in our communities. We also saw how the added strain of the pandemic put pressure on our pubs, adding more financial burdens to an already precarious industry.

We cannot allow our pubs to disappear. They offer vital spaces of connection for us all, dispersing loneliness and providing a place to relax, to enjoy our favourite beers and to meet with our friends. Unfortunately, many pubs have closed due to lack of use and rising costs. Thankfully, many pubs have embraced the changing ways we use their spaces to fortify themselves against an uncertain future. By adapting to suit drinkers’ needs and expectations, thriving pubs have been warmly welcomed back after 18 months of sporadic and necessary closures.

While we may not be out of the woods yet, and while permanent pub closures are often far more complex than simply surviving the pandemic (or not), it’s heartening to see so many open doors and familiar faces. So how can pubs become more resilient? And how might they change to suit an ever-changing world? Here’s what you might find in the pub of the future — cheers!

Happy Pub Illustration

When you think of your favourite pub, what are the first images that come to mind? Your favourite seat by the window? A settling pint of Extra Special Bitter? A chat with the bar staff or meeting friends?

Our pubs are community hubs. Over lockdown, we realised more than ever the important roles pubs play in our lives and in our communities. We also saw how the added strain of the pandemic put pressure on our pubs, adding more financial burdens to an already precarious industry.

Pub Illustration

We cannot allow our pubs to disappear. They offer vital spaces of connection for us all, dispersing loneliness and providing a place to relax, to enjoy our favourite beers and to meet with our friends. Unfortunately, many pubs have closed due to lack of use and rising costs.

“One of the most important changes being made in our pubs is moving towards clear and outspoken inclusivity.”

— Katie Mather

“You get soft, almost wine like aromatics, refeshing… acidity and apple driven, when you try Kent and Eastern style ciders”

— Alison Taffs

Thankfully, many pubs have embraced the changing ways we use their spaces to fortify themselves against an uncertain future. By adapting to suit drinkers’ needs and expectations, thriving pubs have been warmly welcomed back after 18 months of sporadic and necessary closures. 

Pub Signs Illustration

While we may not be out of the woods yet, and while permanent pub closures are often far more complex than simply surviving the pandemic (or not), it’s heartening to see so many open doors and familiar faces. So how can pubs become more resilient? And how might they change to suit an ever-changing world? Here’s what you might find in the pub of the future — cheers!

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Or JOIN CAMRA for unlimited access to Learn & Discover

The Family-Friendly Pub

Arguments rage on social media and in message boards about the presence of children in our local pubs. The truth is, most of our thriving pubs create a safe and welcoming space for families, allowing younger people and children to enjoy the atmosphere (and perhaps a packet of scampi fries). Meanwhile their parents, carers, guardians or otherwise appropriate adult companions are able to unwind with a pint.

Some of our first memories of the pub are from our own childhoods. These are fond memories, and helped bond us to our locals; being there from an early age taught us that the pub is a comfortable, fun place to spend time in. Many people who do not have those same memories don’t use their local pub at all.

This isn’t to say that the pub of the future will have a creche or a soft play area. But a few board games, child-friendly staff, baby changing facilities in the bathroom and good soft drinks available is a very decent provision for families looking to spend their time (and money) in their local.

If we want our pubs to thrive, changing our mindset to see that well-behaved children in our pubs are the beer drinkers of the future is one of the most helpful things we can do as pub patrons. And also, seeing their pub-visiting adults as fellow pub-lovers and friends rather than interlopers couldn’t hurt either.

The Inclusive Pub

One of the most important changes being made in our pubs is moving towards clear and outspoken inclusivity.

We all like to think that our pubs are welcoming to everyone, and the vast majority of them are wonderful places full of warm welcomes and safety. However, think about this for a moment: how could an individual know that your favourite pub is LGBTQIA* welcoming and has a zero-tolerance policy against racist, sexist and other discriminatory language if it isn’t made abundantly clear?

It’s nerve-racking to walk into a pub and not know if you’re going to be welcomed with open arms or met with abuse. It can be scary — even dangerous — to go somewhere unfamiliar. The pub of the future is a place where inclusivity is active, and every member of the team has the agency and authority to act on the important policies that make their pub a friendly and accepting place to drink in.

For more information on how pubs can become more actively inclusive, visit the Everyone Welcome Initiative website.

The Accessible Pub

Accessibility is vital, and for many pub lovers, it is accessibility alone that dictates whether they can visit a place that’s been recommended to them.

Many of our favourite pubs are in old, heritage buildings built long before architects embraced the idea of accessibility. However, there are ways to make pubs more accessible to more people, and by making that effort, the pub of the future will make sure that everybody is catered for, in ways that make them feel comfortable and welcome, rather than as an afterthought.

Installing accessible, unisex bathrooms with facilities like grab rails and alarms and making it clear that these facilities exist on the pub website helps people to decide and plan their evening in advance. Making portable ramps and widening doorframes to allow wheelchair users to move more easily around pubs will hopefully be commonplace in the pub of the future.

The pub of the future will also consider using a hearing loop at the bar, or even throughout the whole seating area, to allow everyone to hear what’s being said more clearly. Perhaps staff will be taught BSL too, to include everyone in the conversation.

In an accessible pub, it’s not only physical accessibility that’s important to consider. Clear signage pointing to exits and toilets help people with anxiety and “invisible” disabilities to feel more comfortable within their surroundings. Having a wide range of drinks (and food, if it’s a food pub) available with dietary considerations and a clear menu is also part of accessibility — as is including non-alcoholic and sugar-free options.

The Family-Friendly Pub

Arguments rage on social media and in messageboards about the presence of children in our local pubs.

The truth is, most of our thriving pubs create a safe and welcoming space for families, allowing younger people and children to enjoy the atmosphere (and perhaps a packet of scampi fries). Meanwhile their parents, carers, guardians or otherwise appropriate adult companions are able to unwind with a pint.

Some of our first memories of the pub are from our own childhoods. These are fond memories, and helped bond us to our locals; being there from an early age taught us that the pub is a comfortable, fun place to spend time in. Many people who do not have those same memories don’t use their local pub at all.

This isn’t to say that the pub of the future will have a creche or a soft play area. But a few board games, child-friendly staff, baby changing facilities in the bathroom and good soft drinks available is a very decent provision for families looking to spend their time (and money) in their local.

If we want our pubs to thrive, changing our mindset to see that well-behaved children in our pubs are the beer drinkers of the future is one of the most helpful things we can do as pub patrons. And also, seeing their pub-visiting adults as fellow pub-lovers and friends rather than interlopers couldn’t hurt either.

“Some of our first memories of the pub are from our own childhoods. These are fond memories, and helped bond us to our locals; being there from an early age taught us that the pub is a comfortable, fun place to spend time in.”

— Katie Mather

The Multi-Use Pub

Like all those social media influencers say, if you want to be successful in the 21st century, you need to have a side hustle.

For the pub of the future, this means diversifying to include more ways to create a steady income.

Looking to the past for inspiration, some local pubs have diversified their space to include post offices and package drop-off points. Some have even become corner shops at certain times of the week, to help provide their communities with essentials after the closure of local shops and services.

Some pubs have added live music and special events to their calendars, bringing in new visitors and creating a buzz. In the future, perhaps more traditional pubs will incorporate games nights, poetry slams, cabaret nights or tasting events into their weeks.

The pub of the future will also think more carefully about how the space is used during quiet moments of the week. Could a local community group make better use of it? Might a local educator find the space useful to set up some evening classes for local people?

Pubs have always been central to our communities. The multi-use pub of the future is really, in truth, nothing new at all. Looking to the past, we can see that pubs have always been used for a variety of different reasons, and in many different ways. So why wait for the future? Let’s make it happen now!

“You get soft, almost wine like aromatics, refeshing… acidity and apple driven, when you try Kent and Eastern style ciders”

— Alison Taffs

The Accessible Pub

Accessibility is vital, and for many pub lovers, it is accessibility alone that dictates whether they can visit a place that’s been recommended to them.

Many of our favourite pubs are in old, heritage buildings built long before architects embraced the idea of accessibility. However, there are ways to make pubs more accessible to more people, and by making that effort, the pub of the future will make sure that everybody is catered for, in ways that make them feel comfortable and welcome, rather than as an afterthought.

Installing accessible, unisex bathrooms with facilities like grab rails and alarms and making it clear that these facilities exist on the pub website helps people to decide and plan their evening in advance. Making portable ramps and widening doorframes to allow wheelchair users to move more easily around pubs will hopefully be commonplace in the pub of the future.

The pub of the future will also consider using a hearing loop at the bar, or even throughout the whole seating area, to allow everyone to hear what’s being said more clearly. Perhaps staff will be taught BSL too, to include everyone in the conversation.

In an accessible pub, it’s not only physical accessibility that’s important to consider. Clear signage pointing to exits and toilets help people with anxiety and “invisible” disabilities to feel more comfortable within their surroundings. Having a wide range of drinks (and food, if it’s a food pub) available with dietary considerations and a clear menu is also part of accessibility — as is including non-alcoholic and sugar-free options.

The Multi-Use Pub

Like all those social media influencers say, if you want to be successful in the 21st century, you need to have a side hustle.

For the pub of the future, this means diversifying to include more ways to create a steady income.

Looking to the past for inspiration, some local pubs have diversified their space to include post offices and package drop-off points. Some have even become corner shops at certain times of the week, to help provide their communities with essentials after the closure of local shops and services.

Some pubs have added live music and special events to their calendars, bringing in new visitors and creating a buzz. In the future, perhaps more traditional pubs will incorporate games nights, poetry slams, cabaret nights or tasting events into their weeks.

The pub of the future will also think more carefully about how the space is used during quiet moments of the week. Could a local community group make better use of it? Might a local educator find the space useful to set up some evening classes for local people?

Pubs have always been central to our communities. The multi-use pub of the future is really, in truth, nothing new at all. Looking to the past, we can see that pubs have always been used for a variety of different reasons, and in many different ways. So why wait for the future? Let’s make it happen now!

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