Adam Ferguson for The New York Times
倫敦——漢普斯特德是一個精緻的小村，點綴着鋪滿鵝卵石的小徑和喬 治王朝時期風格的住宅，已成為倫敦數一數二的時尚街區。然而這裡的酒吧正在一間接一間地消失。馬頭酒吧(Nags Head)已成為一家房地產公司的辦公室。波西米亞國王酒吧(The King of Bohemia)現在是一間服裝店。兔與狗酒吧(The Hare & Hounds)已經被一棟公寓樓所取代。
這種情況已經使政府開始行動。新立法允許人們可以提出要求，把一家 酒吧認定為「有價值的社區財產」。這樣的認定可以為酒吧提供一定保護，使它避免被拆除，也有助於社區組織自行購買酒吧，而不是看着他們被房地產開發商奪 走，後者期望把酒吧用作他途，或者拆了。去年，倫敦南部人們喜愛的小酒館常春藤之屋(Ivy House)就成為首個獲得認定的酒吧，自那之後，又有約300間酒吧步其後塵。
保守黨議員布蘭登·里維斯(Brandon Lewis)是社區酒吧事務部長，他手下的辦公室負責推廣酒吧，保證它在英國人生活中佔據的特殊地位。他說，「我們想說，英國的酒吧在世界上是相當獨特 的，是一種非常傳統的存在。在許多社區里，它們都非常重要，這不僅是因為人們會在那裡聚會，而且還因為它是社區的籌款活動中心，是本地的足球俱樂部、舞蹈 班，是媽媽們上午喝咖啡的場所。」
去年3月，財政大臣喬治·奧斯本(George Osborne)改變想法，把每品脫啤酒的課稅減少了一便士，儘管如此，傳統的酒吧依然在以前所未有的幅度縮減。禁煙法使吸煙者遠離酒吧。超市裡降價銷售 的啤酒也在蠶食酒吧的生意。在倫敦，不斷上升的房地產價格已讓酒吧成了開發商趨之若鶩的目標。
不僅如此，在素以苦啤酒、黑啤酒和烈性黑啤出名的英國，也出現了文 化上的轉變，根據英國啤酒和酒吧協會(British Beer and Pub Association)的數據，相比十年前，英國人如今要少喝大約23%的啤酒。酒吧一直在設法通過其他飲料和擴充菜單品種的做法，來拉攏流失的顧客。
從另一個層面看，英國的酒吧危機也是瑪格麗特·撒切爾(Margaret Thatcher)大力提倡放鬆行業管理遺留下來的影響。上世紀80年代，她領導的保守黨政府打破了啤 酒釀造商對酒吧近乎壟斷的地位。不過，獨立的大型公司取代了這些啤酒釀造商，自那之後，這些公司已吞併了全國超過半數的酒吧。這些「酒吧公司」常常擁有自 己的土地、能決定酒吧銷售哪些啤酒，可以收取高額的租金。一些酒吧公司通過借債斂地，現在則把地賣給出價最高的投標者，來變現房產。上個月提出的一項議案公開譴責了酒吧公司Punch Taverns的巨大利潤，稱這是「完全不可接受的」。
倡議團體真艾爾啤酒行動(Campaign for Real Ale)的尼爾·沃克(Neil Walker)說，「這些大型酒吧公司擁有大量物業，它們想賣掉其中的一些以快速獲利。」他說，許多酒吧已經被改成住宅或超市。
漢普斯特德的一個戰場就是老白熊酒吧(Old White Bear)。這是一棟美麗的、有着兩根煙囪的紅磚建築，過去的三個世紀里，它一直佔據着韋爾路上的這塊地盤。據說，彼得·奧圖(Peter O'Toole)在他狂野的青年時代時而會被拖出老白熊。顧客們說，在漢普斯特德出生的伊麗莎白·泰勒(Elizabeth Taylor)和在這裡有一處住所的理乍得·伯頓(Richard Burton)也是常客。
然而，當一群開發商通過馬恩島的一家公司買下老白熊時，有2000 人簽署了請願信來拯救它。老白熊被認定為有價值的社區財產，到目前為止，地方議會拒絕發放許可，不同意把它改造成一棟有六間卧室的建築。即便如此，它還是 在2月2日關門了。由於開發商已決意反擊，老白熊前途未卜。
「你徹底毀了它，我們要麼就像殭屍那樣，全都上街去遊盪， 要麼就待在家裡，彼此永不相見。」溫蓋特在口紅咖啡店(Cafe Rouge)抿着咖啡說道，這裡是手中鳥酒吧(Bird in Hand)的舊址。本文最初發表於2014年2月16日。
Saving an Endangered British Species: The Pub
February 21, 2014
The Old White Bear pub in London closed this month, and its future is uncertain.
Adam Ferguson for The New York Times
LONDON — One by one, the pubs are disappearing in Hampstead, a jewel-box village of cobbled lanes and Georgian homes that has become one of this city’s most fashionable neighborhoods. The Nags Head has become a realty office. The King of Bohemia is now a clothing shop. The Hare & Hounds has been replaced with an apartment building.
Changing economics and shifting tastes have claimed roughly one out of every five pubs during the last two decades in Britain, and things are growing worse. Since the 2008 financial crisis, 7,000 have shut, leaving some small communities confronting unthinkable: life without a “local,” as pubs are known.
And that has spurred the government into action. New legislation is letting people petition to have a pub designated an “asset of community value,” a status that provides a degree of protection from demolition and helps community groups buy pubs themselves, rather than seeing them get snatched up by real estate developers eager to convert them for other uses or tear them down. Since the Ivy House, a beloved local in south London, became the first to receive the designation last year, roughly 300 others have followed suit.
“The pub, we like to think, is relatively internationally unique, it’s a very traditional thing,” said Brandon Lewis, the Conservative member of Parliament who is the Community Pubs Minister, an office that underscores the special place pubs occupy in British life. “In many communities they are really important, not just because it’s where people come together, but it will be the focal point for fund-raising for the community, for the local football club, for the dance class, for the moms’ coffee morning.”
Still, the traditional pub is being squeezed as never before, even after George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, reversed course last March and reduced the tax paid on every pint of beer, by a penny. Antismoking laws are keeping smokers away. Cut-price beer for sale at supermarkets is eating into business. In London, the upward spiral of real estate prices has made pubs attractive targets for developers.
And then there is a cultural shift on this isle of bitter, porter and stout: People in Britain are drinking about 23 percent less beer than a decade ago, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. Pubs have been trying to take up the slack with other beverages and expanded food menus.
On another level, Britain’s pub trouble is also an echo of the deregulatory fervor of Margaret Thatcher. In the 1980s, her Conservative government broke up the near monopoly that brewers held over pubs. But the breweries were replaced by large, independent companies that have since gobbled up a little over half of the nation’s pubs. These “pubcos” often own the land, determine what beer pubs can sell and can charge high rents. Some amassed their holdings by going into debt and are now selling to the highest bidder to capitalize on their real estate. A proposed parliamentary motion last month decried the profit margins of one pubco, Punch Taverns, calling them “wholly unacceptable.”
“Large pub companies own a lot of property, and there’s a temptation to sell some of those properties off for a quick monetary gain,” said Neil Walker of the Campaign for Real Ale, an advocacy group. Many pubs have been turned into residences or supermarkets, he said.
One battleground here in Hampstead is at the Old White Bear. A handsome, two-chimney building of red brick, the Bear has occupied its spot on Well Road for three centuries. Peter O’Toole, it is said, had to be carried out occasionally in his younger, wilder days. Elizabeth Taylor, who was born in Hampstead, and Richard Burton, who owned a home here, were also visitors, patrons say. Recent guests are said to include Boy George and Liam Gallagher.
But after the Old White Bear was bought by a group of developers through a company on the Isle of Man, 2,000 people signed a petition to save the pub. The Bear has been declared an asset of community value, and the local council has so far refused permission to turn it into a six-bedroom house. Even so, the pub closed on Feb. 2. With the developers determined to fight, the Bear’s future is uncertain.
Guy Wingate, a longtime patron, pointed to Hampstead’s fallen locals. While the village has other pubs, the Old White Bear, he said, had become the center of his community.
“You rip the heart out of that, and we’re either all going to wander the streets like zombies or stay indoors and not see each other ever again,” Mr. Wingate said over coffee at Cafe Rouge, which used to be the Bird in Hand.