Pub(lic) Community: Under Threat of Extinction?

Most of the people at my office like community (Community Design is in our name, after all). Most of us like community even better when it involves libations. No place provides a more stereotypical pairing of drink and community than the English pub, but as per this CNN article from last August, they seem to be going extinct.

Why should this be a concern, you ask? It’s hardly news that such neighbo(u)rhood institutions are closing — periodicals the world over have been publishing and lamenting their demise for decades. They are hardly leaving a lack of establishments to find fried food, skilled bartenders, or live music. And as craft beer culture climbs into cultural mainstream, no one is concerned about the extinction of beer (nor is it bad news that alcohol consumption is decreasing across society).

My concern is for the demise of physical spaces where neighbors and foreigners can gather for regular face-to-face interaction. Technology now brings opportunities to connect with the world to the palm of our hands anywhere we find ourselves (as long as we also find the Wi-Fi network), but is it not worthwhile to seek community connections in “real life” too? Especially to get to know those people who live in the building, house, or yert next to you?

We traditional urbanists believe that when meeting & eating places are intertwined with living places, they actively encourage more in-person connection and produce more exciting places to live. As such, the English neighborhood pub provides a precedent of sorts, and it’s always sad to see precedents wither. Then again, perhaps the perceived pub’s demise is nothing to worry about — maybe this means of community building is just happening in other venues? And here in Providence, we’re currently adding a new “pub” just down the street from the office…

Cheers to neighborhood watering holes and getting to know your neighbors.