Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Pubs go corporate

September 20, 2010 · 3 Comments

This afternoon a barman told me a story about his pub.  He said that in the corner across from where I was sitting Charles Dickens wrote his novels (he didn’t elaborate further) and that on the top floor 1800’s government officials came up with legislation.  There is history, he said, in this place.  It’s too bad that I’d seen exactly the same decor and menu in three other London pubs.

It’s no secret that modern London’s pubs are mostly corporate-owned and operated.  I’ve been to maybe fifteen and there have been four or five structural models that each follow- each one corresponding to a different corporate owner (Young’s, Fuller’s, etc.).  While each pub in any given structure has its own name, they’re all, in actuality, links in the corporate chain.  There are pros and cons to this little situation.  The food that the pubs churn out is relatively low priced and consistently good quality.  The regulations within the corporate structure make sure of that.  The pubs themselves are, usually, well-maintained in terms of cleanliness and furnishings.  They give off airs of old-country quaintness and warmth.  Those are the pros.


The cons are a little bit more subtle.  The pubs are warm and the seats are comfortable.  The music is American.  The bartenders are Bulgarian and Italian.  I don’t know if it’s a fair complaint to make, but it seems like these pubs are much more Ruby Tuesday’s than Leaky Cauldron (for all you Harry Potter fans).  The authenticity seems to have been drawn out as the corporate model has taken hold.  When I think “London pub” (or, thought, before I got to know the city) the images conjured are more rugged and organic than what I see now.  It’s not that I have anything against cleanliness or order.  I just expected the neighborhood pubs to be visually representative of the neighborhoods themselves.  Instead, they seem to be systematically reproduced molds of what is perceived to be “authentically English”.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but if “authenticity” becomes something striven for, quantified, and fabricated, doesn’t it cease to be authentic?

Categories: 2010 Patrick · Uncategorized
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3 responses so far ↓

  •   patrickmr // Sep 20th 2010 at 12:29

    Sorry Rachel, didn’t realize you’d posted such a similar blog just now- more room for discussion.

  •   battilaj // Sep 20th 2010 at 12:36

    We’ll probably get a less fabricated version of authenticity when we get to Norwich. The presence of tourists in London brings out the chains and the kitchy fake Englishness.

    Nice Harry Potter reference.

  •   amyh // Sep 20th 2010 at 14:11

    If all these pubs are so similar (which I am not disagreeing with at all), I wonder why it is that people have local favorites? What makes a particular pub special to a particular person?

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