Like many people I attend a gym regularly despite what my joints keep telling me.  It is not at all fancy, there isn’t a flat screen TV in the place, CRT displays being the order of the day.  Some machines have seen better days and a couple haven’t worked since I joined, while the changing rooms could do with some refurbishment.  Most important to me however is that I can go in the morning, access everything I need without waiting and the monthly fee (only payable in cash) is good value.

I recently overheard a long term member who had visited the new gym that had opened in the Broad Street Plaza on the other side of Halifax Town Centre, the machines were better, as were the changing rooms and facilities generally, but it didn’t have that “comfortable familiarity” of the technically inferior establishment and the people who trained there.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about regulars and their importance to pubs, and it is this same “comfortable familiarity” that brings these people back there again and again.  The personal touch is still very important, being asked how their wife or dad is doing or the staff remembering they are going on holiday and mentioning it when they order their pint endears them to the place and keeps them loyal.  It is the person in personal which is the key to this relationship.

Those of you who read my column regularly will be in no doubt that I like Lewins in Halifax town centre.  They have an excellent management team, good well kept, regularly rotated beers and you are always made to feel welcome, as well as a tight menu of well done food.  This is not unique in the town and we are lucky to have several establishments with similar properties.  Karl, Kevin and the team are not permanent landlords however, merely caretakers of the pub, abhet caretaker managers which have lasted longer than a lot of football managers and have took the pub into the top tier of Halifax pubs.

However, as is the nature of temporary managers, reigns come to an end and this weekend will be the last weekend before they leave for good and the new landlord takes his place on the throne at Lewins.  Most of the time a permanent manager is a good thing for a pub, but this time I fear it is not, the rotating beer policy of the current management which has seen hundreds of Yorkshire brewed beers served in the last 15 months is rumoured to be replaced by a relatively static selection of established mainstream real ales (Landlord, Black Sheep etc) and a single guest beer, losing its unique selling point which put it up with Dirty Dicks and its like.

There are plenty of pubs who do a mainstream real ale range and do it well, from local pubs to town centre venues and although it will satisfy a lot of peoples palettes, a lot of regulars at the pub are as concerned as I am at the change of supposed new beer policy.  I hope the rumours are wrong personally as places such as these have really increased the beer reputation of Halifax, and we can’t do with losing them.  Just another pub with decent ales doesn’t stand out any more, especially in Calderdale where we are spoilt with good ale and good ale houses.

Ale does not make a public house alone, and the Lewins has that feeling of “comfortable familiarity”.  You knew people there, and the staff did too.  They remembered the beer styles you liked, were honest about the beer and sometimes accidentally mislead your wife into drinking far stronger cider than she normally drank. In a time where many pubs are limiting families to dining related drinking only, it welcomed well behaved children without such covenants.  They realised that parents who bring in children during the day will come and spend good beer money at night on their own while bringing friends.

Of the staff who work there, two managers Graham and Jaq will be taking over the Sportsman in Halifax soon, so please support them in their new venture, while Karl is now running pubs in Leeds and Saltaire, such is the nature of temporary management with these being his 41st and 42nd pubs.

On a similar vein, my local the Cock and Bottle at Bank Top celebrated its 2nd birthday this weekend just gone and judging by the crowd for the football on Sunday and its birthday party the night before is thriving still, a good sign in this economy and one which can’t but be helped by the local nature of its ownership and customer base.

Enjoy your pub wherever you drink and appreciate it.  Happy Supping!