Ah, a sad one.  I’m not a sentimentalist at all, so the demolition of my old University Halls (from an earlier post, END OF AN ERA 1) was just noteworthy rather than something to shed a tear over.  But this one is genuinely sad.  Decent, old pubs are closing at a rate of 29 per week (check out the Lost Pubs Project – you can disappear on this site for hours), and while the market is changing, sometimes that’s not the only factor.

We used to use a beautiful old boozer near the city centre for pub talks, and to meet up generally whenever we had a spare afternoon – because it was lovely, the licensees were friendly, and it was in a great location. We’d built up a good relationship with the landlord and we knew we were always welcome.  Sadly, the landlord’s circumstances changed, and they needed to move on. The pub was taken over immediately – great location, captive audience, and seemingly profitable (with hindsight, I’m not so sure about this one.  The old owners seemed to be bending over backwards to get the place to work, and while it was working, it must have been bloody hard work). I was apprehensive from the start, the new landlord seemed like a bit of an oaf, but the pub was still our place, and we weren’t going to give it up just because the landlord was a bit odd. But…

It soon became an unfriendly place.  I spoke with the new landlord, whose aspirations for the place were reminiscent of The Jockey from Shameless.  He launched into a tirade about how terrible the old owners were (not sure if he realised that every person in the bar was there due to how good the old leaseholders were), including how he felt that they had alienated the locals by catering to the wrong audience.  He said he wanted to get the locals and the students in, and he was going to do this through the medium of karaoke (good grief).  For the next few weeks there was a set of speakers and a karaoke machine sitting untouched in the corner of the bar, taking up half the seating area and looming over us with it’s threat of chavdom.

Two things:

  1. People have been trying for years to unite the locals and the student populace through meetup.com and groups like PubhD, and it’s going to take more than a bit of Kylie and Jason;
  2. There are many people living in the area, but the demographic has changed a lot from the type of locals he was trying to attract.  I can think of one “old man pub” in the area that hasn’t shut due to the regulars moving on or dying, and you don’t go in there without discreet body armour.

Additionally, the former owners had apparently done it wrong by focusing too much on food, so he was going to bring in the proper drinkers by offering: exactly the same range of beers, and, um, doing food.

And to demonstrate just how out-of-touch he was, he acted faux-surprised and make a hilarious joke about women drinking bitter.  “Ho, ho, you’ll be getting the vote next”.  I thought he was going to offer me it in a ladies glass.

As if he couldn’t make us feel any more uncomfortable, he commented to drinkers in our group about how much our drinks were earning him and complained if someone had a glass of tap water.

The pub has been under new ownership for about two months, and I noticed it was closed a few nights this week – notably on one occasion where we had pre-arranged an event to be held there (aargh!).  So I stopped by one afternoon to ask them what was happening with the place, and, ignoring the fact that the bar staff were openly hostile (I was going to at least stay for a half but they convinced me against it – interesting business model they’re operating by), it was worrying that they said they’d been closing up early due to lack of trade.  Places like this are, unfortunately, under threat, and diversification is key to their survival.  When I resided in Chorlton, I lived near another stabby-looking pub, but it was just about alright enough for a group of mature students to make it in and out alive again.  But the establishment knew it’s fate, and did something about it.  They advertised their palatial meeting and conference rooms for free to local groups, and soon started raking it in again.  If the owners of our local had been on the ball, they would have made a tidy sum from the drinkers that they have so far managed to scare off.

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