My time reporting on the pub trade has come to an end, but I will always love this incredible sector, and the publicans who keep it going.
When I think back over my time writing about pubs, there can be no doubt the past few years can seem pretty negative. The endless reports of closures can make you feel like this is a sector in terminal decline, slowly disappearing from our cities, towns and villages.
But that is exactly why it‘s vital to get into pubs and speak to the people running them. They show a very different picture.
Sure, when you speak to the average publican, they will be sleep deprived, exhausted, anxious about business rates, beer prices, and whether they are doing enough to keep their locals happy. But when you get them onto their passions, their whole demeanor changes.
Every single time I begin to ask those questions publicans’ faces light up. They talk about their favourite local ale, their food menu sourced from the farm down the road, how Bob’s team always win the quiz, the amazing musicians that performed last night, and how they helped a community campaign for a local charity.
Every time I sit there and take notes and smile to myself - the passion is electric. Sometimes the stories are also emotional enough that it gets you misty eyed.
I went to one pub where the publican told me an elderly man came in every day to have his lunch. His wife had just died and he lived alone. Going to the pub was his lifeline to the community. After the interview, I saw him, sitting in the corner by the window tucking into a pie. The licensee came up to him and asked how he was, putting her hand gently on his shoulder as he talked about how cold it was outside.
So this is pubs. This is why pubs matter.
It is rare as a trade journalist that leaving a job doesn’t also mean the end of spending time with your audience, but fortunately I have no intention of reducing the amount of hours I spend in pubs and with licensees.
Cheers to the public house and its wonderful publicans.