The death of a pub - an obituary

The Macbeth Pub: 1930 (approx) – 2004

Badly laid out but quirky pub full of character in the heart of Hoxton

The Macbeth, which died two weeks ago on Sunday aged approximately 74, was one of the most loved and enduring pubs in Shoreditch.

A relatively quiet boozer, it could never lay claim to the presence of the famous (Paul McCartney preferring to drink in the Lamb and Flag down the road) or the infamous (The Krays being more concerned with the Nelson’s Retreat) like some of its neighbours. Nevertheless this relaxed and unassuming pub managed to carve out its own unique identity which soon saw it becoming the preferred local for many in the area.

Like many pubs in the area, the Macbeth witnessed the troubled times in Shoreditch, as a lack of business and government investment saw the growth of poverty and unemployment. Yet the Pub was to pass through these times relatively unscathed unlike many of its brethren – although at the cost of several changes of ownership - and emerged intact to see the vast changes that have swept through the area in the last few years.

These changes have seen a massive influx of bars, clubs and restaurants, helping to begin the revitalisation of the local economy, seeing the area around Old Street and Hoxton become one of the most prominent night-life locations within London. Throughout these changes, the Macbeth had played a key role. Whilst many establishments chose either to cater solely for the “traditional” community or sold their soul to capitalism and became pompous and trendy wine bars, the Macbeth endeavoured to strike a balance between the two, offering a quirkily decorated but pomposity-free environment where both trendies and non-trendies alike could enjoy a relaxing drink. In an area increasingly concerned with image and hip-ness, the Macbeth offered its punters a clear message – it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, or what you are interested in, what matters is that we all share a common love of drinking and the community that the pub offers. The presence of a full painted mural of a scene from Macbeth, a pool table and a good balance between sofas and classic pub tables served to present a unique and relaxing environment - perfect for those random pub conversations

Sadly whilst it excelled at this role it was not to last. The continued trendification of the area finally caught up with the Macbeth at the beginning of the month. After another change of hands, a definite change overcame the place. Whilst some improvements were positive – such as the introduction of credit card acceptance and the installation of a flat screen tv for music and football – many more were negative. The quality of the beer on tap declined whilst the amount of bottles available increased, a number of the tables were removed and replaced with new sofas and the fruit machines were removed. These changes also served to bring about a change in the balance of the clientele – with many of the original locals moving to over pubs and a more trendier element becoming dominant.

Finally, one Sunday, this reporter and his housemate left his house with the intention of having a lazy afternoon drink yet on reaching the Pub discovered that the name been changed and that, on venturing inside, it was playing booming Techno and Garage Music and the Manager was making cocktails for a bunch of clubbers and artists – two of whom apparently felt that “making out on ithem” is what pool tables are designed for.

The Macbeth passed away at 15:00hrs on Sunday 11th July. It leaves behind a pub/bar called the Hoxton Distillery which, whilst still a pleasant enough environment for a drink, lacks most of the character (and indeed characters]) that once made it so unique. It will be mourned by this reporter, his housemate, and several former locals.

— Garius

I am most sorry for your loss.

The trendification of institutions is directly the fault of ( but not limited too) Disney, Britney Spears and Michael Moore.

It could be worse. It could have turned into a Starbucks.

I’m also sorry for your loss. We’ll keep a good thought for you. It’s always tough when they go suddenly like this.

My condolences. Several years ago, I was similarly saddened to hear of the destruction by fire of my favorite college bar, the Barber’s Closet in Madison, WI. It used to be an old “speakeasy” (illegally-running bar) back in the days of Prohibition in the US. You walked down some steps to a barbershop, which would sometimes even be open late enough for the bar crowd. In the entryway outside, old barber tools of the trade were on display - as was a wooden closet. Pull on the sharpening strop hanging off the side, and the closet swung away from the wall, revealing the entry to the bar. (There was a more conventional entrance around the other side, for those who couldn’t figure it out.) It had cozy booths, and even an assortment of chairs and couches in a little side room. The selection of drinks was huge. When I heard it had burned (along with the other bars in the complex, an old hotel, including the Club de Wash), I worried it was arson - the complex not only hosted a leather bar, but also the Barber’s Closet staff and patrons were accepting of other people there regardless of sexuality. Fortunately, this turned out to not have been arson, but hearing of its destruction still saddened me. I had some good times with friends there, and had hoped to go back while visiting my alma mater’s city.

“Hoxton Distillery” sounds like an obscure British slang word for prostitute.

“You took down Captain Bob’s steering wheel?!?”–Hudson Hawk

Sorry for you loss, I can’t imagine if that happened to my favorite watering hole.


From a song by Dave Van Ronk, popularized (sort of) by the author Lawrence Block:

       And so we've had another night
       Of Poetry and poses
       And each man knows he'll be alone
       When the sacred ginmill closes.

Who knows what you’ll miss until it’s gone? I’m sorry.

Yeah, that sucks…Used to be a coffee shop on Chicago’s North Side, Wrigleyville neighborhood, called La Piazza. Great place, was what starbucks just TRIES to be. Big velvet couches, steamed up windows in the winter time, huge coffee cups, big brass steamers.


It’s a bloody starbucks.


Well things change, i can accept that. It just means we’re down to only the Nelson’s Retreat round the corner as a “proper” pub.

Luckily thats still going strong and shows no sign of closing.

I’ve not yet seen a single pub that was improved by the addition of a flat screen tv for music and football.

You go to a pub to be sociable. Big screens are the equivalent of intrusive jerks who butt in on every conversation and insist you pay attention to them. And if you don’t, they turn the volume up.

Fine if you want to pay attention to the intrusive jerk, and if that’s why you came there, and that’s why the pub exists. But total pains at all other times.

Depends. If its kept on a decent music channel but with low volume, then it serves as good background music in the same way as a jukebox does.

Similarly if its kept on sky sports news with the volume down it can be pretty good.

I never really got the chance to sample my local - it seemed good when I made the offer on my house but closed before I actually purchased. It’s re-opened since but is cr*p.