Shropshire Star comment: Use it or lose your local pub
Are you going down the pub tonight?
Probably not. The habit has been broken and now many pubs are fighting for their lives.
The idea of the pub being at the social heart of the community has become a fading myth sustained by soap operas which, when they started, put the pubs centre stage and cling on to that as a device as there is nothing with which it can credibly be replaced.
In reality the rate of pub closures is evidence of a seismic shift in the way people choose to socialise in 21st century Britain. That is if they choose to socialise at all, as you often hear that staying in is now the new going out, and people seem quite happy to sit on the sofa at home with a glass of wine watching trash telly.
The scale of the closures in Shropshire is frightening. Nearly two in every five pubs in parts of the county have closed over the last 10 years, according to new figures. It is a picture which is mirrored nationally.
And yet it is not the full picture. This is not just a question of numbers, but the very nature of pubs themselves. A lot of them used to be full of smoke and with tiled floors and if you asked at the bar for some food you might get crisps or a packet of peanuts.
Now they are comfy carpeted places doing good food at reasonable prices and with clean air. Or if you want the traditional approach, there are others doing a range of great beers which still have those tiled floors.
You pay your money, and you make your choice. Pubs are adapting to the new climate, but there are many casualties along the way, and the impact of closures is often felt widely in the community.
This is particularly so in rural areas, like much of Shropshire and Mid Wales, where the closure of the local pub leaves villages poorer places with less going on, and if planners play hardball, the village is lumbered with an empty, deteriorating building with little prospect of revival as a viable pub.
Sales were buoyed by England's World Cup success, but that is a one-off that cannot mask the ongoing issues facing the industry. The fact is that, with a few notable exceptions, when pubs close, it is increasingly difficult to save them.
Use it or lose it is an oft-used phrase, but it applies absolutely in the case of our locals.