OPINION - They say Wetherspoons is for the chattering classes like me now — and they're right

 (Carl Recine/PA Wire)
(Carl Recine/PA Wire)

This week, Sir Tim Martin declared the return of the Great British Pub after years of gloom.

Unsurprisingly, he reckons his own JD Wetherspoons chain is the strong horse leading the charge for the boozer (it just reported impressive sales increases on last year). Sir Tim puts his success down to a winning combination of low prices and nice drinks which attract a cross-section of Britain: old folks, youngsters and even now, he says, the chattering classes (the new sauvignon blanc is apparently crackerjack).

As a relative youngster and a transparent chatterer, I can see why more people are coming round to Wetherspoons, a brand which once provoked snobbish down-the-nose looks due to its “cheap” reputation. And it’s not just about the prices. The blueprint of a great pub was expounded in 1946, in the Standard, by George Orwell. Orwell’s article, The Moon Under Water, argued the perfect pub would be “only two minutes from a bus stop”, “uncompromisingly Victorian” in its architecture, “always quiet enough to talk” and free of “drunks and rowdies”.

As a relative youngster and a transparent chatterer, I can see why more people are coming round to Wetherspoons

Sir Tim has been so inspired by Orwell’s rules that he nicked the title of his article — there are 15 Wetherspoon pubs called The Moon Under Water. And he is at least halfway to making Orwell’s imaginary perfect pub a reality up and down Britain. Wetherspoons pubs pop up where you need them, near stations and in town centres. They usually occupy historic buildings, grand 19th-century ones from the time when we proudly built nice things (but not all: the new one opposite Euston was converted from a strip club).

They are mercifully free of the canned Musak that floods most pubs now (who is it for?). And the staff are polite if you behave yourself, but have zero tolerance for riff-raff. I saw this recently in my local branch when a woman on an e-scooter, struggling to control the vehicle, careened through the front doors and upturned a table. Our usually smiley barmaid expelled her from the premises with devastating severity.

As Orwell glumly concluded 78 years ago, the perfect pub probably doesn’t exist. But I’ve found a few of its constituent parts thanks to Sir Tim.

Ethan Croft is editor of Londoner’s Diary