Monday 21 March 2016

Drinking in the Panopticon

Artist's impression

You make not think that Preston is massively endowed in the coolness quotient, but that hasn't stopped the Council. Presently, they're engaged in an ongoing project to turn Lancaster Road (which it mostly owns) into hipster central.

They've given over the Guild Hall lease to a private developer who has turfed out most of the existing leaseholders to put in trendy bars, and given one of their buildings to Ham & Jam, the premier white-walled and low seated place to be seen in town. Walking down the street, the feeling is of a 'work in progress'. No doubt the sex shop and the Golden Cross (the roughest of rough pubs) will be the next to go.

The most recent addition to Lancaster Road is The Guild Ale House, Preston's entry in the micropub stakes. I went in last week and found it fairly typical of micropubs, except for the Beavertown Gamma Ray on Keg. "Local" beers, thick carpet, and lots of middle-aged men talking about the Real Ales.

The thing about micropubs is that they're a reaction against the clich├ęd "Craft Bar" ethos. Soft, rather than hard furnishings. Local Real Ales instead of Craft Keg from who knows where.  Grey haired, comfortably dressed men instead of self-aware and posing youngsters. Intimacy instead of echoey spaces.  What will happen when it's targeted clientele get too old to go out and drink is another question entirely.

Personally, micropubs do little for me. I find them like drinking in a Panopticon. Everyone can see and hear everything you do. They don't provide even the modicum of privacy that a regular pub or even a Wetherspoons can give you.

I'm sure it'll do well. I saw the local CAMRA Branch Treasurer in the GAH a week before opening, presumably negotiating the discount. So they'll be plenty of Real Ale Beardy Types in there. But as it's not open on my days off I'm unlikely to find out.


  1. I like micropubs as an addition to the local ale scene, not as a substitute. They are handy for the drinkers who believe all the anti-alcohol propaganda that pubs are full of fights, mayhem and the imminent collapse of society as we know it.

    In my last job, some colleagues were horrified that I went into town at weekends: "Aren't you afraid?" they'd ask.
    "No," I'd reply, "because I never see any trouble."
    I suspect they didn't really believe me.

    1. Nev makes a good point about anti-twon pub hysteria, but I'm with Matthew on micro-pubs lacking privacy. I don't mind chatting to folk in small pubs, but I'd prefer the option not to. You can lose yourself in a Spoons.

    2. Agreed here too. You should have the choice whether or not to engage with other customers. One of the worst things for me about some pubs (both micro and not) is people asking what you're doing there. It may be well-intentioned, but it comes across as intrusive. The art of conversation is not to question others.

      Spoons - where nobody knows your name :-)

  2. Don't like micro pubs. Midgets scare me. As do clowns. A midget clown would be scariest thing ever.

    Though having small pubs with small furniture for small people is a social good to be applauded. Even if they are scary.

  3. I think of 'Spoons as more like panopticons myself, the large open spaces and CCTV cameras so they can keep an eye on you.