There has been much criticism in the press recently on the growth of the theme bars and Irish pubs as “soulless chain pubs”, claiming customers find the style and atmosphere disappointing. Much of this has been generated by the very recent publication of Alasdair Aird’s 1997 Good Pub Guide.
I would like to put the case that the marketing people have generally got it right (although there are exceptions). The theme pub is merely a branding opportunity and an exercise in market segmentation. It can be argued that the brewing industry has finally got it right and that it is starting to cater for the demands of an increasingly discerning audience at a time when the relaxation in licensing laws puts pressure on landlords and breweries to provide multi-functional venues rather than drinking houses.
The other point to note is that most of the conversions we are seeing are tired and dusty old pubs with very little business going on anyway. The breweries are not transforming successful full pubs and running-out the old clientele.
It can be good news and often is. I would like to look at some of the successful examples. More than 2m a day is being spent on capital investment in pubs throughout the country.
Freelance drinks writer and pub reviewer for the Evening Standard