PurposeThis paper aims to explore and examine how public houses or pubs function as facilitators and developers of community cohesion and social interactions in rural areas of England.Design/methodology/approachThe authors use data and information about facilities and services available for 284 rural parishes in two different points in time (2000 and 2010) to elaborate an index measurement of community cohesion. The index, created upon a range of discrete variables capturing multiple aspects of community living, is then investigated by using structural equation models to assess the impact of pubs in shaping the levels of community cohesion in the English countryside.FindingsFindings gathered from the analysis identify a strong positive relationship between the presence of pubs and higher levels of community cohesion index occurring within the examined parishes, indicating that this relationship is maintained in time regardless of size of the parish, although different impacts are found in the two time points considered.Research limitations/implicationsAs the study is based on a longitudinal examination, it can stimulate research on themes and issues regarding the impact of third places on community cohesion and social capital in rural and remote communities, increasing the amount of information and data available. For instance, due to the nature of information considered, the study could not explore the effects on rural communities’ wellbeing associated with different types of pubs’ ownership and management.Practical implicationsThese results provide a valuable and original contribution to the literature related to the measurement of community cohesion and wellbeing with regard to third places such as small businesses and local retailers, whose significant functions of fostering social aggregation and communal initiatives at a local level are frequently neglected.Social implicationsFindings from this study provide a valuable opportunity for policymakers and local administrators to evaluate policies and actions in support of their communities. In particular, findings provide an original piece of information about the social value of community pubs particularly in small and peripheral areas of England.Originality/valueThe paper provides new and original information about the importance of pubs and third places in general in fostering and developing community cohesion and wellbeing at a local level. Given the significant paucity of empirical studies in the field, the paper represents a valuable contribution to knowledge with particular regard to the methodology applied as well as the potential implications of its findings.
international Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 9, 2017
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