WHEN IS a pub not a pub?

When it relies mainly on food or coffee sales to keep it going? When it sells only craft beers?

An acceptable definition is hard to find nowadays which makes it increasingly difficult to work out whether the industry is declining or booming.

For every pub that closes, there seems to be at least one new “craft ale bar” to take its place.

Quite often, these appear in much smaller premises – such as retail shop units – and the much larger public house buildings end up being redeveloped for flats and the like.

So when a craft beer bar opens in a former pub, it confuses the issue somewhat.

Such is the case with the revival of the former Victoria pub in Saltaire Road, on the edge of Shipley. Standing since 1875, it was once a thriving community pub, until it fell vacant some months ago and was put on the market.

Some put its demise down to the fact that real ale and craft beer bars – such as Fanny’s Ale House, almost opposite – had taken the market, others to the decline in pub numbers generally which has been taking place for decades (and certainly a good deal longer than the ban on smoking in enclosed public places – although that didn’t help in many cases.)

The new owner of the Victoria, Gerry Graves, has renamed it The Salt Cellar and it’s now described as part real ale and craft bar and part specialist gin bar.

In a sense, it’s taking on Fanny’s at its own game – and why not? The key to any business is to cast your line where the fish are biting.

Only time will tell if both can survive but the growing trend towards creating new, independent hostelries can only be a good thing.

To my mind, the greatest value of a public house has always been as a community hub, where people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds can mix in a mutually friendly environment, fuelled by a common enjoyment of a relaxing beverage.

Where it can go wrong is with a lack of self-control, where too much of a good thing can spill over into disagreement and violence or become a health-damaging addiction.

Problems tend to arise where the volume of drinking – accelerated by “happy hours” and cheap drink offers – encourages a loss of self-control. It’s no coincidence that the majority of incidents of drunkenness and violence are associated with those establishments where younger audiences are led by “value for money” rather than the quality of what’s on offer.

The changing tastes of the British public are said to have been the main cause of the huge slump in the number of hostelries in recent decades.

After a boom in the late 1970s, beer drinking started to decline dramatically in the early ’noughties as people switched to wine and lager, especially the home-consumed bottled variety, became more popular and duties on beer served in pubs pushed up prices.

A report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in 2014 suggested that there had been an 18 per cent fall in alcohol consumption per head of population in the previous ten years, driven mainly by a decline in beer sales. In 2003, the average consumption per adult was 218 pints, falling to just 152 pints by 2011 – a drop of 30 per cent.

The IEA report’s author said: “Britons are not just losing their taste for beer, they are losing their taste for beer in pubs in particular."

That tends to suggest that the pub itself is a big part of the problem, especially when you consider that the huge rise in the number of small, independent craft breweries must be being fuelled by an interest in the taste, flavour, quality and variety of the beer itself.

So just maybe there really is hope for the future of the traditional community role that drinking holes can play, led by a cosier, less-complicated offering, where the craft and the skill of the brewer is far more important than the number of pints you can “neck” before closing time.

A simply brilliant way to help tackle child obesity

AS SOMEONE who used to walk miles to school every day, I was really pleased to see so many Bradford schools signing up to a new initiative to give more children daily exercise.

The Daily Mile encourages pupils to walk or run a mile-long route, either on a path, playground or playing-field, every day and 29 schools have already signed up for it.

It’s a brilliantly simple way to tackle childhood obesity and instil the idea that it’s very easy to improve health and performance through steady physical activity. Let’s hope it spreads.

Chance to manufacture credit for Bradford’s hidden assets

MANUFACTURING has been hugely important to Bradford’s economy, all the way back to the rise of the woollen mills on which its prosperity was built.

To this day, it retains a significantly bigger manufacturing sector than the national average but it’s a light we hide under a bushel, so it’s pleasing to see that this vital business area will at last come to the fore next year when the city hosts its first Manufacturing Week.

Chamber of Commerce president Nick Garthwaite rightly told its annual dinner that the sector was in a strong position to help drive the city forward and many local firms were “punching above their weight.”

There are many truly amazing things being made in Bradford and let’s hope the week will showcase them and give long overdue credit to the creative and dynamic powerhouse that is one of Bradford’s biggest assets.