IT is well documented that there has been a steady decline in the number of wet-led pubs in recent years. The smoking ban, cheap supermarket beer and cultural change being major contributory factors to pubs calling last orders.

However, there was good news this week when latest figures released, revealed that despite the number of wet-led pubs having fallen by almost 20 per cent in the last five years, the rate has slowed from 6 per cent in 2014 to 3 per cent in 2017.

So, are our wet-led establishments showing signs of a revival? Is this sector of the market bottoming out? In 2014 there were 1,604 wet-led pub closures. This figure was reduced dramatically in 2016, when 664 called last orders.

The 2016 figures may have come as a surprise to many. But is it? Not really in my opinion. Many pubs have upped their game and now offer a cleaner and more welcoming environment. The range of beers and spirits has also increased dramatically, thus attracting a more eclectic mix of clientele.

Maybe the food-led pubs are reaching a saturation point. How many establishments do you know have morphed themselves from a traditional drinking destination to a bistro-type bar? I know a few - and good luck to them.

Across our region, many wet-led pubs, particularly those on the high-street and in our town centres, appear to be thriving - or at least doing good business, offering a fine range of cask ales, craft beers, wines and spirits. They offer an environment where social interaction and the appreciation of a fine alcoholic beverage is paramount.

Evidence of this was only witnessed last week on a visit to Rawtenstall as my beery amigo, Bob Fletcher and I sought out the wet-led pub scene in this part of the Rossendale Valley.

Northern Whisper’s recently opened bar, Rawtenstall Tap, was our first port of call. It was already busy shortly before seven o’ clock.

It offered a great range of their cask and keg beers, plus a good selection of wines and spirits, in a relaxed, comfy and friendly environment. A contemporary, spacious and immaculately presented drinking den.

A short stroll to Hop Micropub on the high street was our next destination.

The place was packed with an eclectic mix of friendly beery brethren. It boasts an excellent range of cask, keg and craft canned beers - and many, many gins!

A thriving modern establishment, responding to our changing social drinking habits, it’s a first-class social and drinking experience.

Our beery trek in Rawtenstall ended at a new watering hole close to the station. Casked micropub is another example of the increasing popularity of the small, unpretentious, wet-led pub offering a friendly and warm welcome from owners, Mike and Amanda.

Four local cask and two local keg beers were available to slake your thirst. We really enjoyed our first visit. Thoroughly recommended.

The death of the pub is wildly exaggerated. What is heartening from the dwindling wet-led pub closure figures, is that more and more publicans have obviously identified the rapid change in our drinking culture.

Customers now demand more quality and choice in a clean and more contemporary environment.

Are wet-led pubs starting to fight back? Well, it appears they may be off the ropes and ready to slug it out, in a competitive private sector market.