I can't remember these times, but I'm told there was a time when pretty much everyone of a certain social standing went to the pub. Before satellite TV and internet porn, socialising with people was a major recreational activity. And for this, you'd go to what was colloquially called "The Local".
The actual beer served didn't really matter. Thwaites, Greenalls, Tetley, Matthew Brown. It was probably all badly kept filth, anyway. But that didn't matter, as you were swapping gossip and nonsense with your mates, and you were smoking the kind of cigarettes that precluded tasting things anyway. You sat on your ripped leather bench behind a wonky table, placed your feet in the sawdust, sipped your malt vinegar, and talked utter bollocks until closing time.
Sadly, these days people simply expect more. They want comfort and drinks that taste nice. All this media stuff and travel have widened people's horizons, and they're simply not satisfied with just lapping up what they're given just because it's closest. The Mudgie-beloved community local has died a death in recent years because people want better than that.
In many ways, we're softer and more pathetic than our forebears in our unwillingness to put up with discomforts for small pleasures. But such nostalgia is unlikely to help the pub industry. So, next time you find yourself sitting in a faux-swank chain pub drinking a pint of decent but nondescript beer, just think of this - This is what the People Actually Want.