a recent report by the ippr argues that local pubs should benefit from mandatory rate relief in the same way that charties do - its reasoning is that pubs, like charities, offer a vital service to their local communities, acting as a focal point for meetings, events, sharing news and everything else that creates our 'social capital'.
initially, I thought "but what about community centres", but then realised that actually pubs may indeed offer a more valuable resource to their communities: pubs are seen as relaxed, informal venues where people are more open to ideas and each other in ways that are more spontaneous and so creative, whereas community centres tend to be quite formal, structured affairs, and while offering valuable space for meetings and activities, are less able to encourage such dynamism as can be found down your local in an evening...
so - who's coming for a drink? next rounds' on me...
UPDATE: 22 March 2010
it seems the government may have picked up on this post and and a more recent one about the value of pubs, and have recently announced a multi-million pound programme of support to enable communities to take over their own pubs!
UPDATE 27 Feb 2012
it now seems that pubs are being touted as the next ideal workspaces for mobile and homeworkers too! see - http://blog.worksnug.com/post/12923085754/two-pints-of-lager-and-wi-fi-please-pubworking-an