The writer Emily Hill is reminiscing about happy times at The Rose pub near Snowsfields in south London 10 years ago. The smoking ban came into force in July 2007, and this ushered in an era of under-the-radar revelry, when late nights were alight with the glimmer of romantic opportunity.

“You’d get to the end of the night and, instead of going home, they’d lock the doors and everybody would get their cigarettes out,” says Hill, 35. “That was when the romance really happened.”

It is hard to picture this scene playing out at a giant Wetherspoons, and for future generations it may never exist again: new figures show that more than 25% of British pubs have closed since 2001. The Office for National Statistics report published on Monday found that it was, in particular, small, independent pubs of 10 staff or fewer that were disappearing in droves, making up the majority of the fall from 52,500 pubs in 2001 to 38,815 today.

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