Competitive socialising: regeneration’s new Golden Goose

Competitive socialising: regeneration's new Golden GooseHigh scores matter more than high alcohol consumption
When he was a student Merrion Strategy’s MD Dougal Paver well remembers the odd competitive drinking session or two, but ‘competitive socialising’?  That requires some investigating…

My first illegal pint was in a pub called the Craven Heifer in Ingleton, North Yorkshire.  Myself and a load of pals had hitch-hiked up there, aged 16, for a week’s camping and fishing on the trout-laden River Greta and we found the boozer on the walk in to the village, stuck out near the main A65 and therefore in search of punters.

Not that we took pity on it – it was just that they served us, and only Our Kid and Nelly looked remotely like they could be 18 years old.

Better than the ale, though, was the pool table, although at 20p a game it was a bit pricey back then.  Still, we loved the competitive element and the pub manager even came out and congratulated us on our behaviour – specifically, that we weren’t smoking whilst leaning over to play, nor were we perching our pints on the edge of the baize.  The local farm boys obviously had a different view of pub etiquette, not that I was about to point that out to any of them.

This was brought to mind by an emerging trend in the property industry: competitive socialising.  It’s getting landlords and the suits in the big agencies excited and has even prompted Property Week to write about its impact.

In short, it’s the emerging trend for the bearded classes to forsake the local boozer after work for some drafty cellar or former warehouse to play crazy golf, or pool, table tennis, bowling or any other competitive passtime.  Usually, it’s in some edgy, funky building with street food vendors offering retro scoff (toasted sarnies, anyone?) to be swilled down with the latest bottled lager.

There’s Mission Escape in Plymouth, the Crystal Maze in Manchester and Ghetto Golf in Liverpool’s old Cain’s brewery, among many others.  But like all such trends, will going mainstream kill it?  Already the big landlords are eyeing up how the energy and fun can enliven their middle-of-the-road developments and deliver them a rental stream for secondary space such as basements or upper floors.

It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out.  Numerous shopping centres are having to be retro-fitted to make them more broadly-based leisure destinations whilst others are simply looking to pep up their offer and bring in a new demographic.  But to a hipster, the minute something goes mainstream it ceases to be, well, hip and the smarter operators will probably give this the swerve.  One to watch, for sure.