THE death of the local boozer is nigh, as small pubs close across Britain at an alarming rate.

Since the turn of the millennium we have lost nearly half our small “locals”, according to the Office for National Statistics, which is a great shame for a once pub-proud culture.

While it’s not all doom and gloom for the hospitality trade - employment in bigger pubs, food venues and chains has risen by six per cent over the same period - the sector as far as pubs employing fewer than 10 people is in a sharp, sad decline.

Growing up in Ulverston, the town boasted more pubs per head of population than any town in the country (although it wasn’t the only town to make such a claim), with thriving drinking places galore, all long gone. The Barleymow, the Bird in Hand, the Railway, the Union, the Morecambe Tavern, the Sea View... and many more whose names I forget.

Other pubs in other local towns suffered the same fate but are still fondly remembered.

Unless you’re running a town centre pub providing meals, then the sector is very tough. We have largely changed the way we use our pubs - and so many of them are now gastronomically-minded rather than focusing on the selling of booze.

I fear the decline has further to go. Millennials are famously abstemious when it comes to their relationship with alcohol, so the “local” will hold little attraction for them. It is the older generation of pub regulars who enjoyed a quiet pint over a game of darts who will mourn the demise of the local.

With vintage being all the rage these days - consider how popular vintage afternoon teas have become - maybe the small-scale hospitality trade needs to take a more retro approach to the service it provides.

If I were to consider opening a pub, I’d want it to be a proper local. That would mean a bar you could stand at all evening - and a snug. The jukebox (if there must be one) would play nothing from this side of 1988, and the high point of the culinary offerings would be crisps and Planter’s peanuts. Pork scratchings at a pinch.

There would be no children and most definitely no television screens. I’d have a no-nonsense, sharp-talking barmaid of a certain age who could hold her own when the customers got lairy; and there’d be a pile of pennies on the bar as the pub’s contribution to local causes. There’d be an old duffer who insisted on sitting below the darts board because that’s “his seat”; and the local harridan would make regular appearances to drag her husband home for his tea. Basically, my pub would be the Rovers Return circa 1976. It’d been great. It’d also be bust within a month. Sadly, it seems, only in Soapland does the traditional local boozer stand any chance of survival.