One of the first lessons taught in the study of statistics is that of what is called spurious correlation: that the change in one population might mirror another, but has no influence upon it. In the 1960s, the classic spurious correlation was between the penguin population at the South Pole and road traffic accidents in the UK.
The lesson of spurious correlation has clearly escaped Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute, that museum of outdated economic thought that has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics, who has enthusiastically latched on to an article by Noah Carl titled “Why has London lost so many pubs?” Bowman says the Scary Muslims (tm) done it: “Interesting! Change in percentage Muslim strongly predicts change in the number of pubs across London boroughs”. Ed West of the Spectator agrees.
This is taking the fact that the vast majority of adult Muslims do not drink alcohol and concluding that this explains a reduction in the number of pubs, which do a significant part of their business by selling alcoholic beverages. But towns like Crewe, which have a very small Muslim population - there is no mosque, at least not a proper one, in town, for instance - have also seen a reduction in the number of pubs in recent years.
Why that might be is not hard to explain, and does not involve followers of The Prophet. For starters, new pubs and bars often thrive, even when the overall market is contracting. This is down to several factors: the new entrants are where the potential demand is - think the Pelt Trader (Cannon Street), Parcel Yard (King’s Cross) or Euston Tap in London, close to mainline railway stations and so guaranteed passing trade.
The overall offer the new entrants present to punters is more attractive than existing pubs and bars - ranges of craft and cask beer, food, family and pet friendly areas, interesting decor, and Location, Location, Location once again. And what the ASI and its fellow Astroturf lobby groups don’t want to talk about - so I will - is the pernicious effect of the PubCos on business - which affects the established pubs.
Beer tie, often crippling rents, lack of incentive for tenants and managers to invest in the business, all count against the estates of the PubCos, who often carry so much debt that it is more worth their while to treat their pubs as property chips on a Monopoly board, cashing them in on a whim - often selling a business from under the licensee.
Other changes in drinking habits also come into play - fewer people of all religious beliefs, and of none, drink alcohol nowadays. Many drink en route from work to home - those station bars again - and others drink in the area they work. Hence there are plenty of new bars in Tower Hamlets, despite a large Muslim population, because the borough includes Canary Wharf. Also, drinking at home depresses the demand for pubs.
None of this occurs to the man from the ASI, and nor does Bowman equivocate at the sight of Noah Carl hedging his bets by bringing forward further research - noting, for instance, that areas where house prices have risen more have lost less pub and bar employment. That bet-hedging suggests the Scary Muslims (tm) didn’t do it after all.
But good of the ASI man to let that prejudice rip. Oh what a giveaway!