plenty has been written about the reason behind the decline in pub visiting, and it's inevitable side effect, pub closures. Drinking and social trends have been analysed, reasons for change of use explored, possible explanations and solutions sought, and much has been said about the general malaise, the wider picture.
Meanwhile, whereas the writers have written and the observers stroked their chins, another Sheffield pub has given up its fight and has closed. And it got me thinking. I can't pretend to know all the reasons for pubs closing but this one, is fairly clear cut.
You may remember my post here about the last chance saloon situation that the Hadfield found itself in. Initially my surprise at finding it open was topped with cautious optimism - after all, any open pub is more viable than an already closed pub. However, as the weeks passed and I simultaneously discovered a bit more, and found the pub open a bit less, i.e. not at all, it seemed the comparisons I drew then with the Meadow Street Hotel were valid - except, the Meadow really did have a regular band of customers, and, was pretty much always open. Small differences, and ultimately in no way having an influence on the final outcome.
I heard on Friday night that the fight for the Hadfield was lost, and they used their Facebook page to announce the same earlier today - below is their statement :
Friends, supporters, workers, bands, DJ’s, performers, and promoters; the people of Sheffield and further afield whose lives have been touched by the pub nestled within the small diverse community on the corner of Barber Road. It is with a heavy heart that the sad news must be told of the demise of the once grand drinking establishment; its fate, one which has befallen many a fellow institution in these times of austerity, is to be a transformation into yet another “little shop of horrors”.
Sainsbury’s, the orange behemoth, that demon from the very pits of corporate hell has felled yet another comrade and invaded its very thresholds. And we, the so called free people, stood and stared powerless to prevent the travesty that on this day has been committed.
So we salute you Hadfield Hotel. We stand in testament to the good you brought to all who have shared in your chequered and varied past. We will not forget you in living memory, there’s some corner of our beating hearts that is forever Hadfield. A pub whom England bore, shaped, made aware. A pub of England's, serving English fare, blest by suns of home.
We shall regale our friends with tales of laughter and frivolity, of good times (and bad); matches made, drinks drank, games won and lost. Rest easy that the passing of the years and of times been and gone will be celebrated in age old fashion and will dress the lips of all who knew and played within your hallowed walls.
The above is obviously a passionate and slightly tongue in cheek response, and one which doesn't really shed any light on the underlying problems that the pub faced. I am not naive enough to think that there aren't multiple reasons why the pub reached a state where a supermarket thought it was cheap enough to buy and then convert into another of their stores. Pubcos, drinking trends, fads, mismanagement, beer duty, smoking bans, predatory retailers, you name it, any of those could have contributed to this sorry state of affairs. It would be very difficult to pinpoint just one factor.
That this outcome came about alas is hardly surprising, in fact it may even seem inevitable. One thing that is surprising though is the slew of recent closures of pubs in Sheffield and further beyond, for a multitude of different reasons. And the link between them? Well, almost exclusively, with the exception of the above, these appear to be traditional, unspoilt and even listed pubs.
More to come in my next post on this, but for now, lets all have strike a frown and release a disheartened sigh and have a think about the ethics and community ethos of Sainsburys. The Hadfield may not have been a classic in my drinking years, but as I know well, each pub means something, potentially very much, to someone.