I’VE been mulling this week over a comment made by Steve Godwin, operations manager of Salisbury BID (Business Improvement District), who claimed in a recent council meeting that the city was ‘dying in the evenings.’ Urging action, he said, ‘we have got to compete with Winchester and Bath … young people in Salisbury want to see something going on.’ For many, the current younger generation, to adapt the line from The Go-Between, are ‘a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ They have television and newspaper executives tearing their hair out in trying to attract them. And in going out terms, too, they’re also increasingly elusive.
I caught up with Toby Mosely, the ever-lovely landlord of the New Inn, who described how drinking habits have changed over the eight years he has been running the pub: the increasing vogue for people drinking at home first, before going out later, if at all. And rather than a night out in their home city, the bright lights of Bournemouth, Southampton and Bath increasingly beckon.
But it’s not just the younger generations who aren’t going out in the same way. The options of staying at home, too, are ever increasing. A common sight in the last few months are the Deliveroo cyclists, loitering outside the library with their boxy green backpacks, waiting to deliver their next Pizza Express pizza or Byron burger.
Just round the corner on Minster Street, is the newly opened Cook: the word of mouth chain selling upmarket frozen pre-prepared meals. I spoke to the manager, Donal Mullins, who described their pitch for busy families and taking on the takeaways. Cook are a company with good intentions – they are a certified B Corp company meaning they have a societal element to their business plan. Their food is tasty, too, if the chicken, ham and leek pie I bought is anything to go by.
So how much of this is changing lifestyles and how much is down to Salisbury itself? Back at the New Inn, Toby described how when he first became landlord he was part of a group of half a dozen local landlords who’d meet every Friday night: today, he is the last man standing. Fifteen years ago, he added, all the Italian restaurants in Salisbury were family run: now, bar a couple of brave exceptions, they are all chains. And maybe that’s the explanation behind Steve Goodwin’s concerns. When the chains get too powerful and the independents get squeezed out, that’s when Salisbury stops feeling specifically Salisbury.
And when the city feels just like any other city, those that can be bothered will go elsewhere, and those that can’t will ring for a Deliveroo.