Being here in Oregon, as I've previously eluded to, I'm having a struggle rationalising the apparent failure of the British pub with the fact that the bars here seem to be doing alright. To help me and possibly the reader to understand this, it might be helpful to simply describe the tangible differences.
The whole of the USA is in a post prohibition era. OK, it was 75 years on the 5th December since the 21st amendment was ratified, but even today there are noticeable laws here that pamper to the prohibitionist views. Additionally, the brewing industry was all but wiped out by the prohibition period. Only the major big brewers traded by exporting but craft brewing was annihilated.
The very curious aspect of the liquor laws here in Oregon is the strict control of "hard liquor". Bars serving any type of spirit have to also provide a minimum food menu consisting of 5 clear menu items for the whole period of trading. There are other more subtle aspects such as where "minors" can be in the property and under what circumstances, such as only for the purposes of consuming food. These laws appear to be specific to the state of Oregon and can be different in other states, but shows the clear link that the lawmakers make between reasonable drinking and going out for food. This a stark contrast to the correlation between the drinking only bars that exist world wide and arguably irresponsible heavy drinking.
A clear federal law exists as a concession to the prohibitionist movement. In this law there is a three tear system where no company may make alcohol and also wholesale it and nor can a wholesaler own the retail outlet. Here, Safeway has to buy off a wholesaler who in turn has to buy off the brewery. This prohibits any tied outlets.
The relaxation to this recently has been the allowances of the Brewpub format. A pub can brew it's own beer providing it only owns one other pub. Effectively limiting a tied estate to one or two pubs. There is no doubt that this has seen an incredible increase in the number of brewpubs in Oregon. My sources here tell me that providing the brewpub produces less than 1000 us barrels a year they can sell direct to a retailer.
I find it interesting that there is resistance to the removal of the beer tie in the UK but generally there seems the there are few complains about US tie limitations. There are complaints about the middle man wholesaler restricting trading abilities but it is very much appreciated by beer drinkers here that there are no outlets controlled by big breweries.
The "regionals" here tend to be chains of brewpubs. Larger establishments where every other pub in the company has a brewery to enable the laws to be adhered to.
A key difference that applies to the States and the European mainland alike is the attitude to food alongside drinks in bars. Here the industry standard for sales split is 60% food and 40% drinks. In the UK there is general outcry where an establishment majors on food over drinkers. But here in the USA very few places would work without the reliance on food sales.