University of Portsmouth research shows that non-regular pub-goers ‘might never return after lockdown easing’

OCCASIONAL pub-goers may never return after lockdown restrictions are eased, posing a risk to the survival of the country’s pub culture, according to research.
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Dr Sianne Gordon-Wilson, at the University of Portsmouth found that the majority of people who visited pubs less frequently prior to the pandemic have since found alternative ways of socialising.

However the study, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, did find that regulars were likely to return as there was no substitute for the ‘home from home’ atmosphere of their local pub.

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She said: ‘Pubs are a central and important part of UK culture with a long history. They are also an integral part of some people’s social and work life, and that’s difficult to replicate at home.

Glass of light beer on a dark pub.Glass of light beer on a dark pub.
Glass of light beer on a dark pub.

‘Nine in 10 British adults visit pubs, with many seeing pubs as an extension of their home. They want to enjoy the pub environment with company.

‘But despite the strength of loyalty to them deep in the British cultural psyche, pubs are in a constant state of flux.

‘The main issue is that not all pubs are able to open because they do not have the space to ensure social distancing.

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‘In addition, the sector is finding it difficult to recruit staff and only table service can be provided.

‘Many pubs are now struggling and several have closed for good after 18 months of hardship.

‘Together, this puts pubs in an unenviable position – they’ve lost substantial income, are still paying rent, and the longer they stay closed, the higher the chance of less regular customers finding alternatives.’

As part of her research, Dr Gordon-Wilson carried out in-depth interviews with pub-goers and found that many who had previously visited the pub two or three nights a week now drank at home every night because of the ‘boredom, stress and despair’ of the lockdowns.

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Others also reported that being able to mix in the pub after work with colleagues was ‘critical to their job and career success’ and pubs were also important for ‘schmoozing’ customers.

Dr Gordon-Wilson said that pubs would need to adapt to keep attracting customers once lockdown restrictions had eased.

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