I've been on numerous long journeys this week, and to while away the time/drown out screaming brats or people arguing with train staff about tickets, I bought Last Trains : Doctor Beeching And The Death Of Rural England. I'm sure you all know the basic story - Beeching was paid by the government in 1960 to report on the viability of Britain's rail network, with the result that he recommended that a third of the railways and half the stations were closed. Looking at the figures, this seemed to be mostly justfied, on cost grounds at least.
To me, it seems like Britain's pub population by the early years of this century was a lot like the pre-Beeching railways. A large, unwieldy estate of buildings and infrastructure, built decades ago for a level of custom that no longer existed due to technological and social changes. Given that, it's probably inevitable that there would be mass closures of pubs, as there was no longer the money in them to justify them still being open. There will be the Preservation Societies, whether for the rural branch line with eight passengers a day, or the between-the-wars estate pub empty but for Friday and Saturday nights. But if there's not enough people using them, there's little point in having them, even if closing them does greatly upset the remaining half-dozen regulars.
It's quite possible that we still have too many pubs. The regular tales of licencees struggles to break even give a certain indication of that. The question is - how many pubs will have to go before only the ones that make a reasonable profit are left?