Pubpaper 727 – The Landlord maketh the Pub

Posted: 19th September 2013 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

There are several things which attract you to a pub and keeps you returning. This is maybe the quality and range of beer on offer, regulars who you get on with, a cracking atmosphere or good live bands on a frequent basis. But for me the biggest draw for a pub is the people who work there. The kingpin to this is the landlord who has the power to make a visit to their pub as much of a pleasure, good or bad, as he wants. I’ve been to a very good pub from the beer range and atmosphere point of view, but the landlord was just plain rude most of the evening and as a consequence I have vowed not to return there.

When spending time around Calderdale, I, as do most of us, have a favourite pub in each town or village which we visit far more regularly than others in the same area. Most of my drinking is “popping in for a couple of pints” on the way home or at the weekend, such are the limits that family life puts on you. I consider myself a fairly loyal customer, and most of my favourite pubs I’ve been visiting for years now, the main factor is that I normally know the manager and staff and appreciate what they do to maintain the standards.

When en route back home from Manchester direction, a pint in the Big Six, Puzzle Hall Inn or The Works is inevitable, the same with the Ship Inn or Red Rooster if coming from the M62. When I am in town, my normal haunt is the Ring of Bells, and my Saturday teatime beer money normally ends up at the Cross Keys, Siddal or Sportsman, Ploughcroft if not my local pub The Cock and Bottle. When visiting Hebden the choice is normally the Stubbing Wharf or Old Gate, formerly for the cider, latterly for the beer selection more than anything else in these cases.

However pub managers or owners come and go, an inevitability in any trade. When I first moved to Halifax in 1998, I drank in Cookies Bar in the town centre for a number of years which was then ran by Ralph and his wife who I became good friends with. When he was released from Cookies, he moved onto the Old Bailey in Elland and my weekend drinking moved with him. The Old Bailey was totally different kind of pub, but it was my friendship with the landlord which kept my drinking money. It is the same with Kevin, who I am now friends with, who used to jointly run Lewins in Halifax until it was sold 18 months ago, after which he took a pub in Mirfield I regularly visited despite it being out of the way. He now has a pub in Holmfirth and I still partake visits, although business dealings do add to this now.

So it was sad to see that Mark Feaseys six year tenure at the Old Ship Inn is coming to an end on the 29th September. After turning the premises from somewhere which needed to protect its windows with plastic sheets into a well run pub popular with locals and visitors, he added a excellent team underneath him, some who have sailed the whole voyage with him, and others who got off part way. I was speaking to Mark about a month ago and as could be visibly seen if you visited regularly that the recession had hit customer numbers over the last 3-4 years as it has with most other pubs. I hope that the new owner and manager keeps the same team on as they are what makes the Old Ship Inn, and once you have met Jason you couldn’t imagine the place without him. Best of luck to Mark in whatever he does in the future.

Another pub in the area lost a bar manager who was taking the pub in a direction I liked was the Red Rooster. Chris, who managed the Red Rooster up to about a year ago, ran an excellent bar, got a fantastic house beer in Magic Rock Curious while introducing me to a lot of beers I had not tried before. Sadly he left the pub due to burning out, not realising how much work running it was and trying to do too much himself. The subsequent manager continued this to a lesser extent, however the pub now stocks a slightly more solid range of good well kept beers than during Chris’s time compared his slightly more experimental approach.

A good pub needs a good manager period, but at the end of the day it is personal taste which ones you like the work of, all that matters is that you enjoy their beer, go do so.

  1. […] a month ago I wrote about the departure of Mark Feasey from the Ship Inn after 6 years and stated I hoped that at least some members of his […]