The pub has a unique legal and psychological status. In one sense it’s a private house, but in another it is open to the public. It’s something quite distinct from a shop or a café.
Across the country, although pubs vary dramatically, their “body language” is always clear. Wherever you are, you can enter a pub, order a drink and – if available – food and not have your purpose or presence questioned. It is a public house, you are a member of the public, thus you are welcome. Yes, there are the occasional inner-city or estate pubs where regulars will remark on the presence of strangers, but that is extremely rare and even less common now than it once was. I find it very impressive that, over many years of legal drinking, I have so rarely encountered any signs of hostility or adverse comment in pubs.
But what of establishments that, while they may have a full on-licence, do not identify themselves as pubs? Are they as welcoming and inclusive? Would you be as keen to nip in to Frotters Bar for a swift half as the Red Lion? Or, for that matter, an Indian with a full on-licence that describes itself as “restaurant and bar”? Some “bars” come across as quite inclusive and generally welcoming, but others certainly don’t. I would imagine, for example, that many casual pubgoers would feel seriously out of place if they happened to wander into a BrewDog bar. Is the spread of bars as opposed to pubs perhaps undermining the traditional universal welcome of licensed premises?
Of course that isn’t a problem with Wetherspoon’s where nobody is made to feel that they don’t belong.