demise of the real ‘boozer’

I for one mourn the demise of the real ‘boozer’ in Hackney, but wonder if I’m not entirely alone. A pub for me should serve proper ale and be frequented by a strong group of ‘regulars’, above all it should be a place where people of different interests and backgrounds feel free to talk to each other (if they feel like it) and feel safe. Over the years I’ve searched out and frequented such pubs in Hackney, but one by one they’ve been taken over, refurbished, and to my way of thinking have suffered as a consequence. Maybe it’s just me…


  1. @julianbrearley i think the rise of ale is bringing the local back, that’s part of why I set this group up and the growing membership seems to support that.

    It also seems that it’s the \taken over” pubs that are more likely to see good beer when we were looking for pubs for the traditional boozer pub walk we found a lot of them don’t have anything other than cheap larger.”

  2. yes, there is that. The Hare on Mare St’s a good example of both working though. Used to do great Jazz sessions on a sunday night but support dropped off so they stopped. Good pub though, with a good mix of people and a good pint of Landlord…..

    The London Fields is I fear rather the opposite – I wonder if they’ve still got the sofa nailed across the fire exit….?

  3. I think it’s why we are so excited about the Clapton Hart – we all want a great local pub”

  4. Strongly agree with @julianbrearley The historical continuity of old pubs gave it a sense of authenticity that their ‘gastroification’ is destroying. The community a pub generates is very sensitive to change and it takes years to generate.

  5. I think the Hope and Anchor on the Lea still is a trad old boozer.

  6. Princess of Wales on Lea bridge rd is traditional in every sense of the word. And they serve good beer, and crisps. It doesn’t get anymore traditional than beer and crisps.

  7. PS I’m interested to know why pubs went down the ‘gastro’ route. Was it trend or greed even. Or was it out of desperation?

  8. @alexpink I think it’s both as ‘glastro’ is up on the map with foodie’s favourites, people are more demanding on gourmet stuff and they ain’t cheap! Like the Lauriston in Victoria Park specialises in only ‘gourmet’ pizza (£7-12) and how much does it cost to make pizza? Very little. Most Glastro pubs in Islington for example, even not so good ones charges around £12-20 for a main!

  9. @alexpink I think pubs have been attracted by the gastro route because there’s still money to be made from food – whereas beer, the government slaps on so much duty so that there’s very little left for the pub and brewer.

    I’ve never felt particularly comfortable eating ‘gastro’ in a traditional pub. I used to really enjoy the cheap & tasty school dinner-style food at the Pembury with their pies etc. Now it’s gone all poncey with their Italian menu. It’s tasty, but it isn’t a natural partner for a pint of ale.

  10. I used to really like the old menu in the Pembury, the new one is not so great. And thats coming from a massive pizza fan.

  11. I think the decisive factor for the demise of the traditional pub in an area such as we live in is that most of the working class population who would have been drinking in their local here moved out years ago and are doing that in places like Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent. The middle class people who replaced them more recently don’t drink as much, tend to drink more at home anyway and aren’t averse to a higher spend when they do go out, hence the concentration of pubs to get a higher occasional spend out of patrons rather than a smaller, regular spend.

  12. Herts, Essex & Kent definitely have not seen an improvement in local pubs though (Herts in particular is full of soulless refurbed bland boozers). I imagine that the rise in cheap alcohol available in supermarkets is one of the main contributing factors to the demise of the local.

  13. oh im not suggesting you would have expected to see an improvemnet in pubs in those places. As someone originally from these parts though (well, Newham but I digress) I witnessed the wholesale migration of the wroking class out of East London, mainly in the 1980s. Those people now live in places like Dagenham, Romford, Brentwood etc etc and while im not suggesting for one minute that pubs there are great, you will more likely see a regular there than you are in Hackney, where the replacement population either does not really drink, or has different drinking habits.

  14. and yes, for sure, the increase in drinking at home, hand in hand with the increase in popularity of wine, has been a big factor. However, you still see good, traditional pubs in west and south west london where there hasnt been a migration of the original population, wheras in Hackney you have those that have gone ‘gastro’, those that just serve cheap booze to the hardcore hangers-on, and those that just dont exist anymore.

  15. @alexpink and @staystylish – I thought greed, mostly. If you look at massive pub chains like Mitchells & Butlers (who don’t own too much in the borough thankfully) they’re quickly dumping their non-food brands because they can’t get enough profit out of places that concentrate on drink.

    I think there probably is money to be made from a good old fashioned boozer if you’ve got a manager who knows their stuff and cares about their customers – but it doesn’t really fit into the business plans of the big pubcos who own most of the sites.

    So while it is a bit of a shame to see the old guard going upmarket at least we’re getting places which will still serve a decent pint rather than a closed shop or a Harvester…”

  16. I broadly agree with @gavinredknap but what surprises me is the lack of cultural & business savvy that many old pubs managers seem to have. Take the recently closed Fitzgeralds as a typical example; despite dwindling customers and other nearby pubs doing well (eg Biddles, Elderfield) they make no attempt whatsoever to attract the new demographic. I bet if Fitzgeralds had just de-chintzed the decor, ripped out the carpet to leave bare boards and changed a couple of beers, they would have attracted a new clientele without alienating too many of the existing ones. Perhaps \real boozer” means different things to different folks but the ones I’ve always enjoyed are the ones with a broad cross-section of regulars from the local community which enables socialisation between groups that wouldn’t otherwise cross social paths. But many pub managers seem incapable of catering to a changing market.”

  17. There are still some boozers left but I think you have to seek them out. For example, the Adam and Eve on Homerton High Street attracts the young and old (not that many hipsters though), and Lee has been running it for over 20 years. I’m quite fond of it but don’t make my way down there that often, unfortunately.
    The Elderfield (aka Eclipse aka Priory Tavern) has gone away from being a true local a little bit. It used to be frequented by everyone and the pub quiz used to be good fun. I’m not sure why that is, I think there was a tipping point when the older guys (and gals) didn’t feel as comfortable coming in anymore.

  18. PS the Priory Tavern had a plaque inside that proclaimed it was in \the heart of Homerton village”. Always cracked me up especially during the Murder Mile period.”

  19. I have been to the Adam and Eve, it’s an amazing space, it’s massive with great original features, the issue I saw there was there was no decent beer on tap – I’m not sure if this has changed at all more recently.

  20. Thanks @simone and @ewebber – I’ve very occasionally passed the Adam & Eve and thought it looked interesting but I’ve never been in. But, after reading your comments, I will do next time I’m passing.

  21. @ewebber yeah, the Adam and Eve isn’t blessed with good ales but I think if people ask for it, Lee will listen.

  22. @simone sounds like we all should then – I love those lamp shades in there

  23. I’ve never been to the Adam and Eve – would be open to a meet up there.

  24. I’ve never been to the Adam and Eve – would be open to a meet up there.

  25. Wow – great to see so many people care about this topic (even if we don’t all agree). Was back in Hackney last monday night and got locked out of the London Fields and almost boarded into a pub in Broadway Market! Hope you’re all OK out there…..

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