Death of a Wetherspoons

Recently I witnessed something truly unique, the closing of a JD Wetherspoons. 

The closure of a pub shouldn’t be that big of a shock, as currently they are closing at a rate of 25-30 a week, depending on your source. But for years Wetherspoons has bucked that trend and grown at a rate unheard of in the hospitality industry. 

This particular ‘spoons was very special to me, not only was it my local for many years but it was established around the time I first started drinking. It was where I had my first legal pint. 

Now many of you may have no fondness for the chain and wouldn’t mourn its loss. And to be fair a chain of pubs goes against everything I look for in a pub, but it does fulfill a role in society, a niche they have clawed out for themselves. 

The price

Money makes the world go round of course and if you can offer the same or similar as your competitors but at a lower price you a pretty much on to a winner. 

With the price of alcohol rising constantly in the UK, Wetherspoons remains a place where you can get a pint at a decent price. This was particularly true during my time in Edinburgh. The prices in Edinburgh are famously extortionate and I’m sure £6-7 a pint is fine for some but for a poor student ‘spoons was the only option. 

And £5 for a burger and pint was an affordable luxury then for me as it still is for many. Thursday night for me and my friends meant curry night, a hot sit down meal with friends for the price of a McDonald’s or something similar. 

Selection of beer

It seems hard to imagine nowadays but for many of us bland mass produced lagers was the only thing on tap in our local pubs. Of course now most pubs have got at least one craft ale on tap and several more bottled. 

I’d never even seen a real ale let alone tasted one before a trip to Edinburgh with my college, during which I visited the Caledonian Brewery. It was there that I first tasted an IPA. I’m not gonna pretend that I was hooked from that one taste but it definitely opened my eyes to what was out there. 

The next time I was in my local Wetherspoons I saw another beer from the same brewery, and I liked it more. I then began to work my way through all the different beers available and looked forward to each new guest beer. It was by this that I slowly developed my taste and discovered beers I’d never never have found elsewhere. So if beer was my chosen subject, then Wetherspoons was my classroom. 

The people 

When the local first opened its doors everyone was welcome and everyone came. Including people who had been barred from every other pub for miles around. This made for a very interesting first few weeks to say the least. 

Since then ‘spoons has been one of my favourite places to people watch. You won’t find another place around where you will get such a mix of characters. From the old man just looking somewhere warm to sit to the struggling writer nursing a single cup of coffee and using the free wifi. I’ve seen girls starting a big night out rubbing shoulders with men just finished a hard days work on the building sight. I’ve seen divorced dads taking their kids for an affordable Sunday lunch next to young parents out without their young one for the first time and anxiously checking their phones regularly. 

The settings

Ironically for a chain that are often attacked for being cold and devoid of individuality, some of the most beautiful and grand pubs I’ve been in have been Wetherspoons. 

They’ve taken some historic local building and made them useful again, saving many from the bulldozer. I’ve drank in old cinemas, banks, church’s, my local was once the county courthouse. Buildings with marble columns, silver domed ceilings, stained glass windows. 

Even old pubs that have stood for hundreds of years have been saved for another generation by the chain. 

The familiarity 

There is a reason chains of all kinds are popular, people like the comfort of familiarity. 

If you’re in a strange city all alone and you see a sign for a restaurant/pub chain that you know from home, then you can feel drawn to it. You know what to expect when you cross that threshold. 

When I first set out on my own, I found myself at a loose end one Thursday night and to be honest I was feeling a bit lonely and sorry for myself. I knew if I was back in Edinburgh me and my friends would be out for a curry club at ‘spoons. I soon found myself in a nearby branch and sitting down to a curry and though I was on my own it felt like I wasn’t. 
Now my old Wetherspoons is gone, sure to be replaced by something very similar but it won’t be the same. 

Just it’s opening was a watershed moment in my drinking life, so it’s closing seems to come at an apt time for me. It’s been been years since I regularly went to a ‘spoons for cheap booze. I’m at a stage in my life where I drink less but I what I do drink I demand to be of high quality and I don’t mind paying for it. 

So you can say what you like about the chain, I’ll always have a special fondness for it, even though I’ve moved on from them now. 

That said I’ve now got a craving for a curry and a 99p pint of IPA



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