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January 6, 2020

What do people want from a pub or bar anyway? A cosy, traditional feel or cutting-edge modernity? What will they want in the future?

The Good Pub Guide Awards have just been announced and Glasgow's Babbity Bowster was named the Town Pub of the Year while the Whisky Pub of the Year award went to the Bon Accord, also in Glasgow.

Both happily fit in the 'Traditional' category.

According to Fiona Stapely, editor of the guide, pubs are 'uniquely British'; they are the 'hub of a local community' and the best ones are adapted to 'fit in with the needs and whims of our modern lives'.

We would not argue with any of that but we do wonder if the entire concept of a pub is about to change rapidly.

Way back in 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay describing the fictitious pub The Moon Under Water.

Real ales, bar snacks, open fires and a friendly atmosphere all feature prominently in Orwell's ideal pub.

It all sounds very attractive to this scribbler and it is not hard to find pubs with many of the attributes which Orwell cherished.

But will that always be the case, I wonder?

Alcohol-free beer bar

This morning's inbox held a number of suggestions for possible futures.

First up, the BrewDog AF Bar opens on Old Street in London today (main pic). An alcohol-free beer bar, it will feature fifteen taps of draft alcohol-free craft beer.

I'm just going to repeat that: an alcohol-free beer bar.

As well as no/low-alcohol BrewDog beers such as Nanny State and Punk AF, they will sell alcohol-free spirits such as Seedlip.

As we have noted numerous times in the blog, many younger drinkers are swerving alcohol on a night out.

If they are not feeling the tongue-loosening effects of alcohol, they want something else to do instead of talking enjoyably boozy nonsense.

The BrewDog AF Bar will offer activities such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Dabbers Bingo and Famous First Words to its clean living customers.

Linked to this was another email which informed us that a new competitive socialising concept has been announced for a site in Leeds city centre.

In previous blogs, we've already mentioned the growing popularity of venues that mix food and drink with re-vamped versions of activities such as ten pin bowling, darts or crazy/urban golf.

Pint or Ready Steady Bake?

Remarkably, the new Leeds venture is banking on the continued success of reality TV food shows. 

Called Ready Steady Bake, its customers will compete against each other to bake cakes and savoury goods.

Of course, it would be nonsense to predict that the pub of the future will be an alcohol-free, competitive entertainment zone featuring holograms of Mary Berry as the landlady.  

We accept that Ready Steady Bake is making no claims to be a pub but it is competing for the same discretionary spend as a bar.

Are the days of the traditional pub numbered? We doubt it but it is going to be very interesting to see how pubs develop and adapt to changing customer tastes over the next decade.