As the British invasion of the United States continues to gather momentum, so too does the head count of British-style pubs. Typically marketed under the tagline “authentic”, such pubs are becoming a popular hangout for the 25-40 demographic throughout major American cities (and even some minor ones).
Indeed, for those British expats (and Americans, come to that) who do not have a cable subscription, these pubs are often an essential part of a football/soccer fan’s weekend.
But just how authentic are they? Well, as a British expat residing in the Midwest, I have experienced admittedly few establishments that truly recreate the decor, ambiance and character of those back home.
While there are notable exceptions – such as Nicholson’s Tavern & Pub in Cincinnati – most pubs this side of The Pond tend to rely on harmless stereotypes and British imports to really hit home their message!
To that end, I have seen it all: framed photographs of Winston Churchill; flags of the United Kingdom (as well as the Republic of Ireland); toilet doors bearing the words “lassies” and “lads”; menus featuring images of Big Ben; football scarfs; fish and chips; Newcastle Brown Ale.
And amid all of these cliches, amid the paraphernalia, you find – almost without exception – a certain Americanness inside: an abundance of TV screens; neon signs; NFL shirts (yes, you read that correctly).
Don’t get me wrong, I very much appreciate the sentiment: as an avid Manchester United supporter, I’m not sure I would have seen many of the games without places like The Chatham Tap or The Claddagh Irish Pub. But the Englishman in me longs, with ever-increasing desperation, to step foot once more inside the genuine article.
When I think of British pubs, I think of slightly worn interiors with only a small complement of natural light. The bar selection should comprise not just of local beers and London Pride, but of Danish and Australian lagers. Indeed, the word lager itself should be present on the drinks menu. The gent’s loo would be that little bit more odorous and would bear a great deal more graffiti in its stalls. And there would be a pool table – one with British rules.
Oh, and a dart board. There must always be a dart board.
So to any aspiring Anglophile proprietors out there, remember that authentic means authentic; that Americans deserve to experience the raw, worn-in and warm (say that after 6 pints) atmosphere of a good old British public house. Cheers!