Bar, bistro, ladies and beer: The changing Australian pub

I went to the pub the other night. Don’t go there often, usually only about once a week unless we have something to celebrate. Turned out the place was unusually crowded that evening and nearly everyone there was celebrating something or other. Jacqui and I seemed to be about the only ones not there to celebrate. That didn’t bother us, we know most of the people who were there and nearly every group invited us to join them. It’s like that in our little town, as I have no doubt it is in most small communities, everyone knows everyone, so you are rarely lonely unless you want to be.

It’s a system which works very well, you can always rely on there being someone to lend a helping hand, should you need one, and you never come up against those dreadful sudden silences when you walk into the pub, or anywhere else in the town for that matter!




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A brief interested glance will be cast your way and a few “Hello’s” will most likely be heard, then everyone gets on with whatever world-saving topic they were indulged in. It’s up to you to join the one that sounds the most interesting, or shattering, the ticket to which is usually, “What can I get you guys?”  It is a phrase that never fails!

Naturally, there is another side to all this small-town camaraderie. The fact that everyone knows you usually means that they also know your business! Rumours fly around the town on jet propelled wings and are more often than not accurate too. If you want to live a secretive life, don’t move into a small town to live! Being that way inclined is looked on as a challenge by the locals, and anything they can’t find out about you, they’ll make up.

The pub is often the major centre for the collection and dissemination of all this local knowledge and here-say. Mouths and minds become gently lubricated during an hour or so of beer imbibing and it’s noticeable that what starts the evening as a quiet hum, doesn’t take long to become a cheerful hubbub as the crowd grows and the vocal chords become more active!

It used to be that the bar of a pub contained only men. The ‘little woman’ was supposed to be at home preparing an evening meal, a meal that was expected to be ready and waiting whatever time the husband arrived. Things have changed radically! No longer are the ladies prepared to put up with this, and nowadays you’re likely to find nearly as many females in the bar as men, especially the younger ones who haven’t been brought up to the old traditions. And the place is all the better for it.

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Partly because of the welcome influx of the ladies, the pubs have been forced to up their act somewhat, particularly in the inevitable bistro, without which many of these establishments couldn’t survive. The majority are now furnished to a reasonable level and they also provide meals that just weren’t there twenty years ago. Then it was mainly fry-ups and hamburgers, but today all sorts of excellent cuisine is offered, Chinese, Tai, French and some that are purely the creation of the resident chef .

It’s a great improvement, as is the coffee served! As late as the eighties most establishments had a table at the side of the room with instant coffee, (of a not very high quality!), sugar and a jug of milk presented, alongside an urn of hot water, where you were required to make your own drink. Happily, most pubs now have proper coffee making machines and produce drinks of a pretty high standard.

Pubs, especially the country one’s are beginning to take on some of the “clubby” atmosphere of the English version, providing a comfortable, clean venue, welcoming to whole families rather than just the men of the house. The one sad note is the fact that so many pubs now need to rely on those ghastly gambling machines in order to stay afloat, but I suppose that is the price we have to pay, for the pleasure of a decent place to go for an evening out!

Are you a fan of your local pub too?