People have always moaned about pubs and I can remember old men recollecting when beer cost two pence a pint.

They were crying into their ale, which cost about one shilling and three pence in pre-decimal money. It was not so many years ago the TUC and Labour left Brighton as a conference centre for a while because some pubs were charging the then outrageous price of £1 a pint.

Now you are lucky to get any change out of £2 for a pint in most of them. No wonder pubs are shutting fast. The trade reckons on average there will be one closure a day for the next four to five years in Britain and the trend may continue after that.

Some villages no longer have a pub and they may soon be in a majority. Around the turn of the century, there was a pub on nearly every street corner in industrial areas of big towns such as Brighton. But the days of the local are numbered and with good reason.

Why spend more than a tenner a round in a place which may not have any atmosphere when for the same money you could buy several times more at the local supermarket and drink it in the comfort of your home?

Even more worrying for the trade is the knowledge down here in Sussex, thousands of people are shipping it in even more cheaply from continental Europe.

Changes in lifestyles are also moving against the survival of old-fashioned town pubs. Instead of popping into the local on their way home, many men are either rushing home to share in the care of their children or else they are so tired after working long hours all they want to do is get home.

There have already been huge changes in pubs over the last 30 years. Barbara Castle and her breathalyser changed for ever the days when people could sink six pints in a country alehouse and drive slowly home down narrow lanes.

Then you were lucky to get more than a packet of crisps in a pub. Now some serve so much food drink is merely an optional extra. I went to one recently on the A26 where plenty of people were eating, but no one was at the bar at all. Really it was a restaurant in all but name.

In towns such as Brighton, many old pubs are being converted into megabars, often with trendy names. Much as old-timers may regret the conversion of the King's Head into the Rat and Rhubarb, it seems to be what many punters, and they are the ones paying the prices, actually want.

There is considerable nostalgia for old-style pubs and many people will recall with affection, mingled with exasperation, rumbustious character landlords such as George Taylor of the Golden Fleece in Market Street, Brighton.

But the reality in all too many pubs has been a surly landlord slow to serve strangers, a group of semi-smashed regulars in the corner and expensive drinks.

Some country pubs such as the Black Rabbit in Arundel will survive in some

form on account of their superb locations. Some town pubs will change into superpubs, holding down prices or offering extra entertainment.

But I fear in 50 years' time, youngsters will not be bored by old men fondly recalling beer at only £2 a pint. The question they ask could be: "What was a pub, grandad?"

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.