Friday, 18 October 2013

Pub Experiment #1 (participation event)

I love pubs.

Pubs come in all shapes and sizes. You can get a pub with a great selection of beer that's kept in alright condition and a good atmosphere, you can get a pub that has average selection of beer that's kept so well that you forget that you previously thought it was average. You get pubs with an awesome atmosphere, then you get ones that you wonder why you even bothered going to in the first place.

There's a lot of campaigning for pubs to stay open these days and I've been thinking lately whether it's worth campaigning for awful pubs to stay open. They must appeal to some people, but I wonder why. Today, Tony Naylor's article in The Guardian's Word of Mouth really made me think.

I posted the link on Facebook, and got a whole host of interesting responses that agreed with what Tony said in his article.

The responses I got were great (depending on who you talk to) and I want to feature them in a future blog, and that's where the rest of you come in.

We all love pubs and we want them to stay open, but as I said earlier, there are some awful pubs around.

I'm not asking you to risk your life and go in a pub where you'll probably get stabbed, but I want you to go into what you'd refer to as a shit pub and have a couple of pints then either comment on here or blog about it. I want you to go into a pub that you would usually avoid and tell me exactly why that pub should stay open. The worst pub you can think of that's local to you.

Sell it to me. Tell me why that pub should be open and if enough people give me really good reasons why their local shithouse should be open maybe I'll give campaigning for all pubs to stay open a thought.

I'm gonna do the same and when I compile everyone's thoughts, I'll post mine.

You've got until Monday 28th October.

Nate

7 comments:

  1. Shitty pubs should stay open so that eventually, some right-thinking person will come along and improve them. The King's Head in Magdalen Street was absolute crap when I moved to Norwich. The White Lion was derelict. The Cottage and the Plasterers were pretty dire. I used to do all my drinking in the Wig & Pen and the Duke of Wellington because they were the only decent pubs within a reasonable walk!

    Trouble with losing shit pubs is that once the pub gets turned into a restaurant, house, whatever, it will never be a pub again. Eventually, we'll have no bloody pubs left at all.

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  2. We had a proper boozer in Crystal Palace (south east London) called The Hollybush, an Enterprise pub. It was taken over by a group of three locals and turned into a food-led pub, The Sparrowhawk. Average beer at best, but great food and exceptional value wines.

    People used to moan to us in the shop about the loss of a 'proper old boozer'. "Where you a regular?" I always asked. "No, hated it, it was horrible"! They responded with.

    It had an aggressive atmosphere, surly and miserable looking Landlord, rubbish beer, stinking toilets. I could go on...

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  3. Before my "Road to Damascus" moment when I saw the light regarding beer, my choice of pub depended on whether I was going for a night out, or whether I was going to watch Celtic play. If going for a night out I'd choose an atmospheric pub, i.e. subdued lighting, music that's not at an ear-shattering level and ideally a seat (I've been this old for years). The choice of beer on offer was way down my list of priorities, and as the ubiquitous Guinness was my go-to drink back then I was never disappointed.

    If going to see Celtic I'd choose (and still do) a pub with a supporters club attached to it like The Sheephaven bay in Camden or an Irish pub such as the Yucatan in Stoke Newington which was my local at the time.

    Nowadays, for a night out I rarely go to the pubs I used to drink in; my conversion to beer geek has been somewhat inconvenient as I am now compelled to go where the beer is. Luckily for one so lazy this has become less of an issue in London of late as the burgeoning brewing scene here continues apace. But despite not frequenting pubs that serve bland lagers or poorly maintained ales, I have no desire to see them close. Pubs continue to represent the perfect setting for social gatherings, and who knows? If the beer renaissance continues, perhaps more and more pubs will learn to treat their customers as intelligent, discerning drinkers and this will be reflected in the beer they stock? I'm thinking Trojan Horse here, but a beery one.

    As for the Yucatan? I know of several people who are shocked at the mere thought of entering the place (think Mos Eisley from Star Wars) but I grew up going to so-called "rough" pubs i.e. working class pubs. Despite being in Hackney you'll find no London Fields or Pressure Drop beers here. But what you will find is a warm welcome (especially if you follow Celtic), a reasonably priced Guinness and even an old school lock in. This is a place for, amongst others, the marginalised and dispossessed, especially important in gentrified, Hipster-dominated Hackney. Okay, there may be the odd "incident" and some "characters" but one story demonstrates why this pub should always remain a pub. Some years ago I was chatting to the manager's ma, as they have it in Dublin. I was new to London and had no plans for Christmas so she invited me to the pub for Christmas dinner. She told me they do this every year, and while declined (I wasn't entirely without options), the offer was greatly appreciated. The pub can perform a social function, indeed it can bring a social cohesion and be of great benefit to people who may otherwise be alone. This is why pubs in general should be cherished.

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  4. Shitty pubs should close. Simple as. We have too many pubs as it is and some need to close down, needless to say it's the shitty ones that should go.

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  5. See here:

    "And yet I’ve always admired those down to earth staunchly working class locals and Ashton had many. Places doing what they’ve done for a century or more – being the heart of a local community and helping dull the pain of the day to day miseries we all face. Of course these pubs are much the better if they have some architectural merit; and much more palatable if they sell real ale. But even a cold leaking shack dispensing chemical lager to a band of dedicated locals should have its place in our communities. No food, and no frills and no beer mats laying down the law and selling healthy lifestyles either. But these pubs are slipping away and part of our history is going with them.

    "More than one in every three pubs we had in Ashton 15 years ago is gone, and many of those that remain are up for sale or to let. Now you might disagree with me that these pubs are worth saving. But too often in Opening Times I see remarks such as “good riddance” when a non-real ale pub closes for the last time. Yet it is these ordinary pubs that form an established network of community locals – with their darts teams and pool tables, their dominoes, cards and quizzes and yes, their keg beers too. They are the fabric of our communities and we should do all in our power to support them – real ale or not.

    "A “bad” pub can always be turned into a “good” pub. A demolished or de-licensed pub is lost forever – like the nearly 40 pubs of Ashton you won’t find today."


    Too many pubs, or too few customers?

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  6. The only boozer I ever entered where I feared for my life was in Burnley. I was off to see the League of Gentleman at Burnley town hall, a popular TV show of the time. We went in the nearest boozer to the train station to sink a few before the show. We had one and drank it as fast as we could and fled.

    I do not believe in god, but I did thank god that day for walking away with my life. The atmosphere was pure distilled fear and impending violence. The clientele looked like a BNP rally. You realise at that moment that you are not really working class, it is just an affectation and respect for your origins and that you have no place there among the fearful, the hateful and the quick to violence. The wrong misinterpreted look to someone, knocking someone’s elbow by accident isn't brushed over with a "sorry mate" but a punch. They are unfortunate places to find, and it is stupid to look for them on purpose.

    I say all this and I like faux rough pubs. Pubs full of soccer supporters off to the game. Rowdy but good natured and good humoured. I was in one recently and a chap showed me a bit of paper. I was lost for words. It was an order removing him from the banned list of pub watch. He was a nice chap. Pubs full of drunk unemployed old codgers in the afternoon. Ignorant rants about immigrants but only the cries of the impotent and dispossessed, sad more than offensive. These are rough enough for me. I can absorb the sadness and despair, neck a few cheap pints, and walk away with all my bones intact.

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  7. The pub which I used to call my local, The Blackbirds was a great little place. 17th century listed building with character and charm. It had low beams, an open fire, dark wood and old photos on the wall.

    Then Greene King decided it needed to make more money and be more appealing to the youths in town. They decided to use The Blackbirds to test their "surf and turf" brand, which has since flopped. So the fire has been boarded up, the beams have been painted, the carpet is now stripy. The windows have an odd wooden contraption around them to make it look like a beach hut, The new oversized tv's have a cow fur frame around it (surf and turf geddit!). And best of all they dropped the price of everything dramatically. 5 years ago I drank cider and it was Aspalls in the blackbirds at £3.60 a pint. Now it's Strongbow and its something around £2.75. That sort of price drop gets noticed. When other drinks are as low as £2.09 a pint all the local numbskulls crawl out of the woodwork. The certainly appeal to the youths now. Go in there on a Friday night and those basically not much more than children, who are generally wearing far too few clothes, are shouting and screaming at each other, drinking their fill because it's so cheap they can do their pre-drinking in a pub before getting a taxi to a nightclub. By half 10 it's all calmed down and they have gone, just leaving the slightly older football louts who have no qualms about starting a fight because they are bored.

    The surf and turf idea fell through and now they dropped the branding, but have left the decor and the pricing (although it is slowly creeping up). The other Greene King pub in town, The Bumble Bee, followed a similar line (smart move GK - have both of your pubs fight for the same demographic) in fact the menu's are almost identical. This means the undesirables are split between the two pubs now.

    There are two other pubs: The Crown, which just has something about it that I don't like. When you're there the people are friendly, the beer is good, the pool table doesn't swallow your money and you can almost always guarantee that there is going to be a seat available. I just don't like it.

    And The Swan. By far the nicest of the pubs, the bar staff talk to you like you're an old friend, the furniture is just so and I feel at home with its relaxing and friendly atmosphere. The problem with it is the beer is expensive and there are no guest ales.

    These days I drink at the social club.

    Why keep the pubs open? Because it keeps the dickheads out of the club.

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