Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Pubs: can’t live with ’em, can’t get served if you’re in a big group of loud Americans…

September 21, 2010 · No Comments

As a young American, it is really hard to find a good pub in London. And I’ve tried. We’ve all had the experience of going into a pub and being told that it’s not open, despite the fact that there are still a lot of people sitting at tables, some even being served at that moment. And, no matter how early pubs close in London, 9:42 is not a believable closing time.

 Jesse, Emily, and I were discussing why we thought pubs would tell us they close so early. Don’t they want our business? The answer, of course, seems to be dependent on who we are. If we- a crowd of excited, loud Americans- go into an already full pub in Bloomsbury, the bartender doesn’t necessarily want to bother with the hassle. In groups, we can be very noisy, and the fact that sometimes we want to order separately doesn’t seem to help our cause. If just a few of us walk quietly into a relatively empty pub at quarter to 11, they are much more likely to serve us, despite the late hour. Recently the three of us were looking for a pub in the neighborhood, even though it was nearly 11, and The Jack Horner of Tottenham Court seemed to be open. Even though it was late, we had the best service I’ve had at a pub. They were friendly, attentive, and even apologetic when they told us (at 11:17) that they were closing, even though we had already been warned. We even got a “good night” from them, something I have definitely never heard from a bartender at a pub before.

 I suppose that different areas have different “pub rules,” if you will. Bartenders in Covent Garden, for example, expect all sorts of rowdy customers at all hours of the night. A pub I went to in Covent Garden, for example, was completely packed at 11 one night, and the clientele made no indication that they were about to leave anytime soon. And the bartenders didn’t really seem to mind. In Bloomsbury, though, where the customers generally seem to be upper-middleclass businessmen and regulars who are all relatively quiet, the bartenders don’t exactly look happy to see us when we walk in.

Since I haven’t seen many people my age in pubs, though, I wonder how much of it is that we are young and how much of it is that we are Americans. I think this would be an interesting theory to test. I suppose, in Norwich, it will be easier to tell if we really are being snubbed for being loud Americans or if it is our age group that is less appealing to the pub staff.

On a slightly different note, I would have to agree with George Orwell when he says that it is “the atmosphere” that really distinguishes pubs. I, for example, much prefer quieter, well-lit pubs (like The Jack Horner), where I can sit down and enjoy a pint rather than the more rowdy, crowded pubs (like The Court, for example), where people seem to be drinking their ales (and shots) as fast as they can. What I will call the “college atmosphere” of crowded, dark pubs is all well and good some of the time, but other times I just want to relax.

Categories: 2010 Jessica

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