Nice here, innit?

Back at the dawn of time, I kick-started this blog with a series of posts about my four main “locals” – four very different establishments, all of which were (and happily still are) doing quite well. I was intending to write a follow-up post talking about how they were doing well, but never got round to it. (I’d have to extend the list to seven, as well.)

Atmosphere has to be part of the equation, though. B&B’s recent comments on a pub in Bristol – a pub with a particularly high level of pubbiness – got me thinking again about pub atmosphere, and what contributes to it. Are there factors which consistently make you feel at home in a pub – that make you think “maybe I’ll stop for another”? And are there factors that consistently work the other way, making you think “maybe I’ll drink up and move on”? Here’s my list, off the top of my head:

“Drink up, move on”

Big, open rooms
Screwed-down tables
Cafe-style furniture (round tables, bentwood chairs etc)
Heavy emphasis on food
Heavy emphasis on gourmet-level beers with prices to match (stress on ‘heavy’; having Nøgne Ø in the fridge is fine, it’s getting in-your-face about it I don’t like)
Uniformly bright lighting
Bland, hotel-lounge decor
Radio on
TV on with sound
Multiple TVs with no sound (so a screen is visible from every corner of the room)
Great crowds of people (crammed into a small pub or spread out in a huge pub – either way, too many people is unsettling)
Mediocre beer, or decent beer in poor condition
A pub quiz, halfway through

“Stop for another”

A pub cat
An open fire
Multiple small-ish rooms
A good jukebox, or very good piped music (what B&B describe is essentially an excellent jukebox)
Bookshelves with interesting books
Squashy leather furniture
Interesting or striking architecture (think the Fletcher Moss in Didsbury or the Centurion in Newcastle)
Interesting decor (bare floorboards, gigantic refectory tables, whatever)
Groups of people chatting and looking like they’ve settled in
One or two people sitting alone reading the paper
Decent beer in good condition
A pub quiz, about to start

What about you?

Update Apparently everyone agrees with me, which is nice. What interests me, thinking about this some more, is that pubs almost always have some elements from both lists; this evening, for instance, I had a blissful pint listening to some excellent music while sitting on a bentwood chair. (I was seriously tempted by the place down the road with the leather sofa.) Spoons’ often tick a lot of boxes on the ‘bad’ list, but there’s one in Manchester with four or five ‘good’ features. There are also some that tend to go together, to the point where seeing one ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feature more or less guarantees you’ll get some of the others: uniform bright lighting is generally a bad sign. And a pub cat is always good to see.



  1. Posted 15 November, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’m with you there Phil.

  2. pubcurmudgeon
    Posted 15 November, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink | Reply

    Very large measure of agreement there.

  3. steve
    Posted 15 November, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    i’d add tasty affordable snacks and a range of seating types for variety

  4. dsquared
    Posted 16 November, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink | Reply

    You have missed out the one key defining quality which dominates all others, which is proximity to my house. Interestingly, on this criterion, your least favourite craft beer chain operates the best pub in the world.

    • Posted 16 November, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I reckon they’d be 3-1 down on my criteria, which isn’t that bad. Whatever else about the beer, it’s rarely mediocre.

  5. pubcurmudgeon
    Posted 16 November, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The exterior of the pub is painted in a wishy-washy pastel colour.

    The name of the pub is displayed in a typeface intended to resemble handwriting.

    The signage includes the term “and dining”.

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