Drouthy Neebors, many St Andrews students’ beloved pub on South Street has now closed for good, to be replaced by — rumour has it — a gin bar. The name Drouthy Neebors (meaning “thirsty neighbours”) is taken from Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns’ narrative poem Tam O’Shanter, which describes the story of a farmer getting drunk with his pals. As such, it is a poignant sign of the bubble’s increasing disconnect with the rest of Scottish society that an establishment that carried such connotations — and offered cheap drinks — is being kicked out by gentrification, or, dare I say, gintrification.
My initiation to Drouthy’s was last September, after the Philosophy Society’s first talk of the year. As I became a regular of the society’s talks, I naturally became a regular of Drouthy’s as well. The excellent beer on tap, ranging from my favourite Czech Budweiser to local ales, as well as the discussions with other PhilSoc members and philosophers, was a staple feature of the Mondays of my first year in St Andrews. Its cosy but not too loud environment was perfect for a modern-day symposium. It provided a place where students and academics — PhilSoc’s speakers range from internal speakers from the university to guest speakers from other universities — could both feel comfortable and discuss topics of interest outside the formal setting of a lecture hall or staff office.
Besides PhilSoc, I went to Drouthy’s with my non-philosopher friends too at least once a week. Nowhere else in town is there a place where you can buy a rum and coke for less than £2, and also have a conversation with your friends that you can actually hear. Some might say these two features of Drouthy’s are exactly why it closed down, and unfortunately they’re probably right. This was not because it wasn’t a popular pub, though perhaps not to the extent that Aikman’s or BrewCo are. Rather, it was the result of having large spaces, which were almost never filled on weekdays, allowing the noise to be dispersed instead of being right in everyone’s ear.
The single most important reason why we’re going to miss Drouthy’s is that there is no real replacement, no pub or bar that provides the combination of what Drouthy’s provided. Aikman’s is too loud, BrewCo is too crowded, and the Whey Pat is, well, the Whey Pat. The Keys and the Central cater to slightly different crowds and the Union doesn’t serve Tennent’s anymore, which is a deal breaker for many. Whether you crave vitamin T or, on the contrary, detest mass produced cheap beer, I think you would still agree that the Union, be it the Main Bar, Sandy’s, or Beacon, doesn’t cater for the same needs as Drouthy’s did.
So the question remaining is where is St Andrews headed? We don’t need another gin bar — the West Port right opposite Drouthy’s already has a wide selection of gins and appeals to the exact same crowd as a gin bar would — but us students who want to have a chat around a table while drinking our pints are left with increasingly fewer options. Not only that, but the locals of St Andrews have also been hit, as the town is becoming more and more expensive and exclusive, catering more and more for golfers and rich students and less for everyone else.
We can only hope that the gap in the St Andrews market left by the departure of Drouthy’s is big enough to be noticed, not only by us, but also those who can do something about it. For now, there’s one thing we know: where once drouthy neebors could meet at 209 South street, they can no longer. And it’s sad.