In an age when, for many, socialising means trying to kill each other in a video game or chatting online, there is a lot to be said for the importance of a well-run good old-fashioned community pub.

Not that there is anything wrong with spending some of your leisure time negotiating virtual reality (let’s face it, it’s nice to escape from the real world at times), but there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face.

For centuries, public houses have provided a place where friends can meet up, chat, argue, have a laugh and down the odd pint or two.

A properly tended pub is a real asset. But over the past 20 years or so, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of them closing across the country.

There are many reasons for this. Running a pub is tough and expensive and maintaining that balance of keeping the punters coming through the doors as well as ensuring you have a healthy business and make a decent living is not easy.

Over time, people’s tastes and habits change when it comes to how to spend their leisure time and that has forced pubs to adapt.

And adapt they have – offering food, quiz nights, karaoke, pool, live music, televised football, anything and everything to attract customers.

In a special report in The Bolton News this week, examining the issue of pub closures, it was reported that a recent survey of 2,000 adults by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) indicated that more than half of regular real ale drinkers who go to pubs have made at least one new friend during their visits. One in three say they had made five or more.

CAMRA said its study also suggested people who have a pub in their area are happier, more trusting and better connected to their local community.

Nik Antona, CAMRA’s National Chairman says pubs play a significant role in communities across the UK and he is absolutely right.

He also issues an important warning to beer-drinkers and urges them to keep visiting pubs support the trade.

It seems obvious, but how many times have you heard someone bemoaning the closure of a local shop or pub, only for them to tell you they never spent any money there anyway?

As I see it, the biggest problem is the competition pubs face from supermarkets that sell booze at what often seems like ridiculously low prices.

Even the most reasonably priced establishments don’t have a fighting chance when faced with a crate of lager for under a tenner.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, though. There are some cracking independent pubs still operating in the town centre and throughout the borough. More small venues – often served by micro-breweries – continue to appear and they seem to be doing OK.

This is good news for several reasons; it is great to see small businesses thriving in a difficult marketplace and these specific ventures are more than just a business, they are a place where people can relax, meet up and socialise.

In today’s mad world, such a haven should be treasured more than ever.