Posts tagged ‘pubs’

May 25, 2014

Not so young enterprise…


This is The Tavern.  It occupies a position in the centre of Stafford at the end of the pedestrianised section of the main shopping street, and in my experience has never looked either a busy or a particularly appealing pub, despite what should be a really prime location for a town centre drinking hole.  Five minutes walk from the station, even closer to taxis and buses, and right in the centre of town.

Owners Enterprise Inns want to sell it, have it advertised for sale in fact, and as they have (in my view anyway) not managed to make any sort of success out of it I can’t really blame them.  And last week they had some very serious interest from an experienced publican who’d done some careful research and had come to the conclusion that they could turn this into something that would fill a pretty large gap in Stafford’s market.

Stafford is a fairly typical historic market town which is somewhat overshadowed by the dominance of Stoke-on-Trent over the county to which it gives its name.  At times or in places it seems tired and run down, sure, but at others there’s a liveliness about it and it is certainly far from written off.  But from a drinkers point of view it rarely gives me cause to venture into town.  More so in the past few years since I’ve been living a few miles out of town, and more significantly a station stop further south that means leaving Stafford railway station to venture to the pub is a mission in itself*.

The overwhelming impression of the town centre (possibly the whole town, though there are maybe one or two pubs further out that serve a more suburban market fairly well) that the research previously mentioned backed up, is that Stafford appears to have no real independent free houses.  At this point I will invite anyone who can genuinely correct me to do so, but let me explain that thinking first.  There are a small number of clearly brewery-tied houses – Joules run one, there are the inevitable Marstons-group pubs, and the other that springs to mind is perhaps the best of the whole town centre, the Titanic-run Sun Inn, which was born out of the Everards’ Project William and serves up mostly Titanic, and a couple of Everards, beers with the odd guest.  Then there are the usual pubco premises that abound and all appear constrained by the usual restrictions that such ownership brings. Then there are the free houses, at least some of them independently owned yet seemingly wrapped up in tight deals with certain breweries or other suppliers that no doubt provide them a low-effort way to offer cask and other beer but with precious little option for the more discerning beer consumer. In fact the odds are that the best chance to find something different is by visiting the Wetherspoons that, regardless of me not being a huge fan of the chain anyway, I find one of their less inspiring outlets.

So, what Stafford could probably do with is a genuine free house that puts on a wide and varied selection of quality cask beers, and maybe even supplements that with a UK and International keg offering as well. Done properly, truly independent, and providing an oasis for those who want to seek out something a little different. Something that (especially in my own case) might make the five-to-ten minute stroll from the station to venture into town a worthwhile experience, especially given that there is virtually nothing even uninspiring within the same time window. Or that might mean the trip into town is a worthwhile experience for those searching for something of interest in their pint/half-pint/third-pint glass, rather than heading outwards towards Stoke, Stone, Crewe, Wolverhampton, Birmingham or even further afield.

I understand that was exactly the sort of concept that certain parties had in mind when they attempted to make an offer on The Tavern. I say attempted, because Enterprise Inns won’t be considering the offer. Why? Because they know that quite possibly someone other than themselves could turn the pub into a successful one. Possibly a really successful one. They don’t want that because they own other premises in the town. They want the custom going to their pubs rather than being swayed by a bettering offering. And so the sale is restricted. This building cannot be used as a pub once sold. The resstrictive covenant, which prevents a purchaser keeping a pub a pub, is being applied, in order to ensure that drinkers are forced to accept the more mediocre offerings which their other premises in the town, and those controlled by other equally protective organisations or owned by beer-ambivalent companies who are happy to just dumb-down the beer offering that they don’t understand. It’s almost like a cartel except that many of those complicit in it are completely oblivious and frankly don’t seem to care.

What is there to do? I have no idea. Change of use from a pub is a much easier matter than getting new premises licenced. As ever the pubcos seem to be able to call the shots and prevent market forces from ever having a chance. If they are so sure they are the custodians of the pubs that ought to survive, commercially if nothing else, then they ought to have the courage of their convictions and let others have a go at providing them a challenge. Instead they are allowed to exert a monopoly influence safe in the knowledge that reversal of the damage they do is prohibitively costly and sadly the law supports them.

Shame on you.

DISCLAIMER: I have no involvement in any attempt to purchase the Tavern, but do know someone who is.  I’m no more or less pissed off as a result as I would have a vested interest in drinking there if it was turned into the kind of venue that was described to me!!

* most notably since the always interesting, if not always successful, Stafford Arms next to the station was run down by one or other of the pubcos (I won't say which as I'm not 100% sure) and eventually became overflow parking for a Mercedes dealer.
January 9, 2013

Another one bites the dust

Given the rate at which pubs up and down the country continue to close, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see the final demise of The Railway Tavern in Penkridge in the past few weeks, or to hear the news that apparently it is to be converted to become a dentist’s surgery. After all there are still 7 more pubs in what is a moderately-sized village.

I can’t lay claim to it as a regular, or even irregular drinking spot, although I have used it in the past on occasions. In recent years it has gone steadily downhill, and some short-lived tenancies in recent years have each added to the woe with issues of environmental health and licence revocations due to breaches. Beer selection was not to my tastes, and nor as I recall was it in great condition on the more recent occasions I visited. But it st some history, apparently gaining its name from the railway navvies of some 175 years ago who were not welcomed at other pubs in the area, and as a local village pub some amount of charm, despite its run-down appearance. Sad then, but clearly not viable. Or was it?

It’s been niggling me for a while now, particularly since finding out about its supposed fate. It’s recent history has certainly been one of decline, but has this been a natural process? Or a planned outcome to enable the sale of the building for other uses. Why would anyone even want to do that?

Let’s look a bit deeper. A quick check of the local licensing database confirmed my understanding that the Railway was owned by Punch. And wait, because a few hundreds yards down the road there are two more pubs also owned by Punch. So I could envisage a desire to offload one of those three, and I can see the business sense in it, especially for a company as debt-laden as Punch. Now the value is really in the building, and if it is sold to another pub operator (whether a group or individual) there is a chance they will make a success of it, increasing competition on the two other pubs still retained in an area where there are a further three pubs within a very short distance. So if you were thinking purely about your own profit, I guess you’d want to make sure no-one else wants to take it on as a pub, just in case. A few problems with licensing wouldn’t hurt that plan, along with a lack of investment and unsuitable tenants with little or no support. I’m being very cynical here, and I’m not saying this did happen, but it seems plausible.

Now, as has already been noted, Penkridge is still well-populated with pubs, although there’s little to get hugely excited about (the recent introduction of some interesting bottled beers at one of them being an exception to that). So the loss of one is perhaps inevitable. But what does that mean to the consumer? It certainly hasn’t provided an opportunity for someone to open up the local beer market to a bit more variety. Maybe it has maintained the viability of the remaining pubs, which isn’t bad in itself, but does it instead limit competition?

So a cynical viewpoint perhaps, and we’ll never truly know. in this case the impact is relatively low, but if this is the behaviour in other locations it could have a much more significant impact in communities with less choice to start with.

What do you think? Is this an unfortunate effect of market forces or a active mismanagement to force a fire sale and remove another pub from the market altogether? Another failure of the lax planning situation that allows this to happen so easily, or a welcome reprieve for other pubs in the area that will presumably pick up a little extra trade?

September 8, 2012

What’s right?

Saturday evening. Early, to be fair. Standing in a pub in Birmingham that I rate highly most days. Enjoying good ale. But some bloke (or some woman with a really masculine voice!) is treating us to Oasis tracks “a capella”. I’d like to refer you to my previous post but it is clearly too late for parental influence.

It has stopped again. Hopefully either the friends of the drunken contralto, or the staff of the bar, have restored order.

My point, if I have one, is that antisocial behaviour can be subtle but controllable.  Grown-ups can be as guilty as children. Either can make the pub a delightful place. I don’t feel delighted tonight.

But then, as I step down from the soapbox, the thought. How many times was that me? It’s easy to be critical.

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September 7, 2012

Pubs and children

It’s amazing how quickly time flies by.  It’s already nearly a week since I got home from a very enjoyable family holiday in Cornwall.  Obviously any holiday with a three-year old involved is going to involve a lot of child-friendly activities, and this one was no exception.  But a family holiday is also about just getting the rare chance to spend a bit more time together, and to me it is very important that it is a holiday for everyone, so in my case that means dragging the family to a few of the local pubs and hopefully getting to try a few beers that are not readily available back home or even better completely new to me.

As I’m generally doing the driving on our holidays, this rather limits the opportunities for me, but lunchtimes and evening meals are always good times for a half pint or two along with a bite to eat, and are actually reasonable value compared to .  All it takes is to find somewhere serving food that is child-tolerant.  But it also ideally has to be the kind of pub I want to have a drink in, so as not to squander what is a fairly limited opportunity.  I’m not a fan of the chains of “family pubs” that more often that not have a play area and hordes of screaming kids, and at best a pretty bland and uninspiring selection of ale.

We were very fortunate on this holiday to be able to go into a few very good pubs who were more than happy for us to take a young child in with us, and their menus generally catered well for children’s meals.  Dragging a hungry child in and out of pubs until you find a suitable one isn’t the best strategy, and so there were a couple of occasions where we had to go with the safe option – though actually the two Wetherspoons pubs we fell back on at these times actually were up there with the best in terms of the beers I had so everyone was happy.  A tolerant attitude to families with children meant I could visit the kind of pubs I would choose to go to on my own, or with friends.  Brewpubs like the Driftwood Spars at Trevaunance Cove and the Blue Anchor at Helston.  Friendly local places like the London Inn at Summerscourt or the Ship Inn at Looe.  And lots more.  And the first two mentioned were perfectly welcoming even when we were there just for a drink, not even for a meal.

Of course there is the whole argument about how children shouldn’t be allowed in pubs, they are places for adults, but pubs also need to attract as many customers as they can and I’m pretty sure we justified the tolerance of the places we went into by taking with us a good-mannered child who knows how to behave in a place that is for grown-ups.  I know we did in fact, because of the comments we got at the end of many of our visits.  But then, over the past four years we’ve taken our daughter into pubs and restaurants and taught her that she needs to regulate her behaviour.  When she was very young there were a couple of occasions where we had to take her out of somewhere because she was playing up, but the lesson quickly worked and we get the benefit now by having much more freedom to take her with us to the kind of places we want to go while we’re on holiday together.

My only complaint really, is that it is quite difficult to know how a particular pub feels about you going in with children.  One of my sources of information about pubs while out and about, the Good Beer Guide, indicates if a pub has a dedicated Family Room, but unless it happens to be mentioned in the general description places that are happy for you to take children into the main parts of the pub aren’t identified.  Even pubs’ own websites don’t always make it clear (although the presence of children’s options on an online menu is a good clue sometimes!) and we had to go into a few places in the hope that it would be alright – fortunately either a children’s menu or a quick check with the staff quickly clarified that.

So, publicans. Make it easy for me to identify you as somewhere that is happy to allow well-behaved children and I’ll be more than happy to give you my custom (if your beer selection appeals too, of course!).  Don’t tolerate bad behaviour though – that spoils it for the rest of us.  The pub isn’t a creche but there is no reason why it should be out of bounds to families.


August 21, 2012

Finding pub perfection?

It was a beautiful warm and sunny evening last Friday when a friend and I popped into the cool dark interior of a London pub that was a much awaited first for me.  The beer options were immense and the first pint was hugely refreshing after the rather warm wander from the station.  It wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t so busy there was a problem finding a seat and no huge queue at the bar.  An old-fashioned grand street corner pub, it was pretty much perfect.  At least, it was, right at that moment, and that got me thinking.  FOrtunately for my drinking companion, I did my thinking out loud so he could join in rather than be completely ignored!

The perfect pub, like that immortalised in Orwell’s Moon Under Water, oft sought and rarely, if ever, found.  Was this it?  Was it at least *my* Moon?  Fleetingly, yes.  But then I realised that at least for me, the problem with finding the perfect one is that it is only perfect at a given moment in time.  That moment might be repeatable, might be due to various other conditions coming together such as weather, company, beers available and chosen, the size of the crowd filling the place, all sorts of reasons.  Or it might be more specific, that particular pub just at that exact moment in time, in those precise circumstances.  Either way, I realised that the reason that perfect pub is so elusive is that the target keeps moving.  What makes it perfect at a given time just isn’t the right think at another.

As I write this on the train I’ve not long departed what was, briefly, another perfect pub – a fairly regular and familiar haunt, practically on the station where I found myself with just enough time before my train, not too busy inside to get served quickly, and with a beer list of which the only fault was its role in creating indecision thanks to the excess of quality choices.  The right place at the right time.  There’ll be other times when it doesn’t quite cut it for me, and I couldn’t have substituted many other pubs for it at that time either, but while I waited for that train it was unbeatable.

It could have been quite disappointing to come to the concusion that there isn’t going to be a single one perfect pub for me, but on the other hand, I now know that there are lots of them, I just need to be there at the right time.  That’ll be worth a drink when I get to my next perfect pub…

July 6, 2012

The Session 65 – So lonely…

There are two ways to drink alone: by yourself, and with other people. I enjoy both but prefer the latter. The initial setup for this month’s Session, by NateDawg27, suggested that I’m not the only one, and this was backed up by some of the early comments on that post.

Maybe you’re wondering what I mean. Well, I often choose to sit in a pub by myself, enjoying a pint and maybe reading a book or newspaper. But although I’m on my own, I’m also not. There’s always something going on around you, a cross-section of human life passing through and bringing the place to life. I can rarely avoid a bit of people-watching while I’m there – if you haven’t tried it maybe you should. It can be fascinating. Other times you may end up chatting with staff or even other customers – there on your own, but not really alone.

Or you can shut off completely, lose yourself in your drink and anything else you’ve got to focus on, and then you’re much more by yourself. There are times when this suits me too, but I usually end up drifting back to observing what’s going on around me pretty soon. I generally prefer drinking alone with other people.

There is definitely a bit of a stigma with being out in the pub by yourself, and i think this is because it goes against the stereotypical drink with mates – that’s seen as the “normal” or even “correct” way to go for a drink by many and so those who are happy to break from that are seen as strange or sad.

But that leads me to my main point. The title for this Session was “so lonely”. I’ve not talked about being lonely, just about being on your own, which really isn’t the same thing. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you are lonely. And, conversely, just because you are with other people doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely.

Sometimes that drink with a group can be one of the loneliest drinking experiences. If you’re on the fringe of the group, maybe you don’t know everyone or don’t have the relationship that you can see others have, it can be very easy to feel excluded, or feel that you’re missing out on the rapport and relationship others have. It doesn’t even need to be a large group – three is quite sufficient on the basis that conversations tend to work between pairs and there’s always one person slightly left out.

So we should be careful not to confuse drinking alone with loneliness. Don’t assume that person over there drinking by themself is lonely. If they are taking up the only available table why not ask if you can share it – they’re not necessarily waiting for someone like you to turn up so they can latch onto a new best friend in order to fix their loneliness. They’re probably just enjoying their drink, their own company, the buzz around them – and will generally be quite happy to share the pub with you.

I shall carry on enjoying drinking by myself from time to time. I’d prefer not to be lonely though. And certainly not drinking because I’m lonely!

June 12, 2012

Penkridge Jubilee Beer Festival – a review

It’s a week now since the beer festival here in Penkridge officially came to an end, although some of the festival beers were still kicking around later in the week – i should point out that not all had been brought on at the start of the festival so this wasn’t a case of beer hanging around too long, just the ones that didn’t make it onto the taps earlier getting their chance. So, this was something of a first for the village. Was it a success? Will it be repeated?

Three pubs all got involved and all had a different approach. One brought more handpulls into use than they normally would, and had about six ales and ciders on at a time. With a quiet word to the right people the beers waiting in the wings were coming up direct from the cellar too, in absolutely stunning form. The place was quite rightly heaving and it is all a good sign for the future here when proposed brewing activities start on site. Smiles all round from the landlord and a buzzing atmosphere reinforced how well the weekend’s events were going.

The next venue was not known for being a beer destination, much more as a (good) restaurant, but this was a preconception they wanted to change. To demonstrate how much more they can do they set up an outside bar alongside the BBQ with six ales, and although the weather didn’t really help, early on the third day the first of these had already run out. Had the weather improved this would have been a runaway success, and despite that I think they achieved what they set out to do and proved they can cater very well indeed for the ale lover as well as their restaurant side. I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

Finally the third venue was, sadly, a bit more disappointing – logistical issues meant that their input wasn’t ever going to be as strong as originally intended, and with just three handpulls available it was a case of cycling the festival beers through as quickly as possible. Subject to them being consumed of course. Unfortunately the beers on the Friday night had been on all week and weren’t at their best, and two days later were still on – a catch 22 situation because there was little temptation to drink them with so much other good beer available elsewhere.  As a result most of the other very tempting beers on the list didn’t even make it on over the course of the event. However the Oakham Citra which came on on Monday was replaced again by Friday which shows that a good beer in good condition will sell, and so it is just a shame that the first impression of the festival here was marred by the beers available for the first few days.

So, was it a success? Yes, definitely, overall and for at least two of the pubs involved it seems to have been a great weekend. I’ve yet to get full feedback from the landlords but conversations over the weekend suggest they’re were more than happy.

Will it happen again? That remains to be seen. Even if the combined event doesn’t take off I’m certain there will be more beer-focussed events at pubs in the village on the back of this. But it would be great to repeat this in even bigger and better style next year, and with the parish council also considering an annual event to build on this year’s jubilee weekend there may be a place for a Penkridge Festival in future.

In the meantime the Penkridge Round Table are planning a beer festival for later in the year and so an exciting range of beer will return to the village in just a few months’ time. Knowing the RT guys they will be putting a lot of effort in and aiming to raise plenty of money for some very good causes, so best of luck to them and please support if you can.

Maybe Penkridge will now be starting to earn its place on the beer map…

May 4, 2012

#TheSession63 – The Beer Moment

In this month’s session Pete Brown invites us to consider “The Beer Moment” and what it means to us.  In keeping with his appeal for us to switch off and float downstream, my mind immediately latched onto the word “moment” and it took me straight back to A-level physics.  In between setting things on fire, putting scary quantities of electrical current through them, and generally avoiding anything too mentally strenuous, there were actually a few things that stuck, and “moment” was one of them.  Rather than thinking about a moment as a point in time, my mind turned to its meaning as a force causing movement around a turning point.  Or, I suppose, a tipping point.

In the context of the beer scene in Birmingham (which is, by a small margin over Stoke, my nearest major city, and at least sometimes my work location too) much has been written already this year about how we lag behind other major (though generally smaller) cities in terms of the beer revolution.  There are glimmers of hope on the horizon, with the opening of the Post Office Vaults just before Christmas, and plans for Brewdog to open up in the city later in the year.  Interest in great beer is growing, or rather it is becoming more vocal, and surely there are exciting times ahead.

So, for me, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of Birmingham’s “moment”, both in the sense of it being a time where something is happening, and (back to the physics here) a powerful turning force, creating change in the drinking scene in the second city. 

As mentioned above, at the end of 2011 the Post Office Vaults came onto the scene, and that has been a breath of fresh air (figuratively at least, being a somewhat subterranean venue!) with a rapid expansion in the range of foreign bottled beers alongside a good selection of British ales.  Almost every time I go in the place is busy, and there is a buzz there that is great to see.  A buzz that is fuelled by the great beers that are available, and it is fantastic to see just how popular so much of the wide variety of styles and flavours is becoming.  Clearly the demand is there for exciting beers of all types.

Then a few weeks ago Twissup hit Birmingham, and a number of the more vocal enthusiasts for Birmingham’s beer scene got together and enjoyed a few hours of extremely responsible drinking, mostly meeting up for the first time with people with whom we’d all been communicating via Twitter for a while, and forming stronger relationships as a result.  It may have been the first of its kind here in Birmingham, but it certainly won’t be the last.  You can read more about that in recent posts on the subject, from both myself and Danny Brown.

And the future, well, it is fairly well known that Brewdog have been looking at a venue in central Birmingham to open up another in their rapidly expanded chain of bars, and word on the street is that all being well later this summer we’ll be seeing that venue opening up.  That can only be a good catalyst for further growth and expansion in the variety and quality of beer available in Birmingham.  I welcome their arrival and the challenges they will present to the local beer scene, although its location pretty much right on my direct walking route from the office to the station will be its own personal challenge to me, and a temptation I shall enjoy giving in to.

Three individual moments in time there, two past and one future, all contributing to the growing force for change that I think will finally see 2012 being Birmingham’s “Beer Moment”.  Returning once more to the physics, a moment is a force, and the more force applied the greater the change.  Come and be a part of that change; come and be a part of the moment. Let’s turn a moment into momentum.

And, of course I couldn’t leave this today without saying, may the fourth be with you…

February 7, 2012

Small beginnings…

I thought it would make a nice change to have a positive slant for my next post and fortunately I think I can do just that.  Just a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the lack of decent drinking opportunities in a village with more than its fair share of pubs, and the difficulties in getting more than a passing interest from most of the landlords in doing something about it.

This week I can turn that all around and announce with some confidence the 1st Penkridge Beer Festival.  Taking place from the 2nd to the 5th June 2012, it is part of the celebrations associated with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, in conjunction with a number of other events around the village over the course of the weekend.  Each participating pub will have an extended range of beers available over the weekend, and while there are no listings available yet I am hopeful that at least some of those beers will be slightly more unusual than the normal offerings.

At present three pubs are confirmed as taking part, and several more are interested in joining in.  So 6-8 pubs in total, all being well, and all within short walking distance of each other.  Of course, this doesn’t mean Penkridge is suddenly going to become the beer capital of the midlands by any means, but a concerted effort to get some different beers on the bars and attract beer lovers from far and wide has got to be a positive start.  A successful event has every chance of becoming a regular one, and success will almost certainly build the confidence to expand the beer repertoire in the future. 

In my travels around the village pubs trying to get this off the ground over the last couple of weeks I have noticed some other improvements in prospects for good beer, which will no doubt be the subject of a future post or two.  New tenants at one pub have plans to reintroduce guest ales alongside the two current staples which are, admittedly, popular with the regulars and so will remain for the foreseeable future, but at least they are making moves to branch out with new handpulls due to be fitted in the near future.  At another the exciting new developments are still fairly well under wraps, but I can promise that as soon as details are available I’ll be passing on the information sharpish!

All small beginnings… but promising ones, and a marked improvement from my post only a few weeks ago.

Maybe I can look forward to seeing some of you at the Penkridge Beer Festival in June!!

January 10, 2012

A little local understanding

I’ve been thinking about “local” pubs recently and now I’ve decided to make it the subject of my first proper blog post, so here it is (go easy on me – I’m new to this!). It’s just an outpouring of the thoughts in my head, based on my own personal experience and a bit of no doubt ill-informed observation…

I saw an “advert” in my local CAMRA group’s magazine recently, advising members as to how to campaign against the closure of a local pub.  One thing seemed glaringly obvious to me by its omission – at no point was there any suggestion that actually using the pub, and getting others to do so, would be a good strategy.   Surely, a pub without customers is clearly not working, and if the local CAMRA don’t go there then (presumably) the beer selection either doesn’t include anything of interest to them, or is of poor quality.  So what is the point of campaigning to save a pub you’re not interested in using?  This brings to mind a (different) CAMRA branch who actively campaigned for the protection of one of the pubs in their own area against a planning application, citing the loss of a community facility etc, yet as far as i am aware not one of them was actually willing to drink in there themselves.

On the other hand, the advert did refer to “your local pub”.  So am I missing an obvious assumption that if it is your local, then you yourself must be using it?  Maybe that is what was meant, but if so, that wasn’t how it was interpreted by the group mentioned above, and I find it hard to relate to personally.  I have a local pub, i.e. the one closest to me.  I don’t use it. 

There are several pubs in my village and my local one is probably the last of the bunch that I would choose.  That said, I don’t really use any of them very much – because in most cases I’m not very impressed with the beer selection on offer at all, and at the one pub that I do like to use the one guest ale doesn’t provide as much variety as I really like.  Also, there is only so much time I can spend in pubs before I become very unpopular at home!  So my “locals” tend to be a small number of pubs close to my work locations in Birmingham (for example the Wellington, Shakespeare and recently the Post Office Vaults) and London (especially the Euston Tap right outside my office) which all give me a far better chance of finding a beer I want to drink, or (more often) new ones to try, and are also a jumping-off point for plenty of other great pub choices slightly further afield.

If my local pubs gave me a larger and better beer selection, then they’d be more appealing to me.  Does that mean, therefore, that I don’t think it is worth fighting for those other pubs, the ones I don’t want to actually use myself?  You’d be forgiven for thinking that was exactly the point I’m making, but it isn’t.  Quite the opposite in fact.  But I’m not sure that the reasons for making a stand about pub ‘x’ rather than pub ‘y’ are necessarily thought through.

Pubs that I consider poor generally fall into two categories – those that I would actually like to drink in if they offered a beer selection that appealed to me, and those that I would like to keep there in order to keep a segment of the drinking population away from those I do want to drink in.  If the latter type closes, then clearly there aren’t enough people who are prepared to drink there, and so maybe it isn’t fulfilling the purpose I thought it was.  But it could still be viable in a new format, and so there is still a case to oppose a change of use and certainly a demolition.

If on the other hand it is a pub that just doesn’t attract me, well, I’ve realised that waiting until it closes is leaving it a bit late to start the fight.  Unless people are using it and regularly asking for better beer, what incentive is there for the landlord to change things?  By the time a dwindling group of locals are no longer enough to support it, too much damage has been done.  There’s an example in my own village where one landlord has recently negotiated himself out of the tie on his lease, so he can choose freely what beer he makes available.  And yet on the times I’ve been in there since, I’ve seen the same, average beer from a major regional that was on the bar before.  Without enough demand for a more interesting selection of beer, nothing changes.

Until recently I thought I was lucky to live in a village with 9 pubs.  It’s down to 8 now, but that is still a reasonable number for the population they serve.  Except that all but one fit into my definition of poor, in that the beer selection doesn’t make them attractive to me (the converted one fitted into my other definition of poor!), and even the one I would choose every time above the others is limited in the number and turnover of its guest ales so doesn’t really satisfy my tastes.  I’m now beginning to think that these pubs are all surviving well enough and therefore, for now at least, I’m not going to see much change from any of them – they’ll mostly just keep ticking along, happy to stick with the status quo.  As a result my hopes of the quality cask and keg revolution hitting a pub in my own village are pretty unlikely to be realised – perhaps the local market is just too saturated for anyone to take a risk on changing it.  I’ve seen this in the lacklustre response to attempts at establishing a coordinated beer festival over a bank holiday weekend.  I’m convinced that would create some interest in the wider variety of quality ales available out there, but the response has been at best luke-warm. Several seem to like the idea, recognise it would be good for business, but translating that into action? Not a sign, but there’s still time.

So, have I really made a point about anything or have I just rambled on?  I’m not sure.  I think what I want to say is that, yes, pubs need saving – once converted or demolished they won’t usually be coming back.  Saving them isn’t just about fighting once they are closed though – if you don’t want pubs to close make sure you are using them, and try and create the demand for what you want to see them serving.

I’ve not made a New Year’s Resolution, bit if i did maybe it would be to follow my own advice, and make more of an appearance in my local pubs, pushing more for something better (in my own subjective opinion) on the bar.  Once they’ve closed it will be too late. I don’t like the limited drinking on offer in my village (despite the number of pubs) but I’d like it even less if there were no options at all.

On the other hand I could just shut up and enjoy my beer in those “locals” a little further afield, that meet my beery desires so much better.

Or even take the radical step and open a craft beer in my own neck of the  woods. Now there’s a thought…