30 JUNE 2001, Page 32

Pubs are for drinkers

From Mr Adrian Fry Sir: On the evidence of his article (The family way, 23 June), Simon Hoggart has little liking for, or understanding of, pubs and their culture. A real pub — as opposed to the chain pub, theme pub or roadside eatery — should be a place for drinking. It may have other features to recommend it but if the business of drinking is not the primary reason for going there it's not a real pub. A good selection of drinks should be on offer and beer should be well-kept. Economic necessity has turned hundreds of first-class pubs into second-class restaurants, where the 'morose drinker' is about as welcome as a rat in the kitchen. But it is the 'morose drinker' who cares about the product and about the atmosphere in which (and company with whom) he consumes it.

The movement towards family-friendly pubs, which Hoggart seems to applaud, has also robbed them of atmosphere; the convivial sodality of regular drinkers is now shattered by the bored whining of kids for whom the sight of their parents getting drunk is neither edifying nor entertaining.

In all the recent agonising over what constitutes Englishness, pub culture has somehow been forgotten as we rush headlong towards a culture of Continental-style bars, chain eateries and Blairite 'Children Welcome!' signs. But real pubs are prime exemplars of conservative Englishness, and we'll miss them when they're gone.

Adrian Fiy

Swindon, Wiltshire