Pubpaper 739 – An appreciation for our landlords and pubs

Posted: 15th December 2013 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

Last week I looked back at 2013, and as we come close to entering 2014, it’s time for the second part of my review of the year, this time from a more general and personal view.  Taking in the wider picture, the economy seems to gaining some level of stability now and going forward the fiscal outlook is positive.   However it will some time before people’s disposable income starts to increase and therefore we have a few years before we start to see the chance of many of our closed pubs re-opening, if they still exist to re-open that is.  There needs to be critical mass of customers in our existing pubs before the capacity in the market exists to support significant growth in pub numbers.

There is still a battle to get customers into our pubs outside of the traditional peak drinking sessions.  The best pubs have realised you need to either have a reason for people to visit or you need to become a true local for the surrounding community.  An late Thursday evening in Holmfirth last week proved just this.  Driving through the village on the way to Jazz Club night at the Postcard Inn, a significant number of pubs had customers somewhere in single figures.  The upstairs bar at the Postcard was similar, but the Jazz Club downstairs at Winky’s Bar had the crowd filling the room being entertained by a six piece band (so much so I had to stand behind the bar and watch, it’s amazing how much 2ft of mahogany bar and a set of pumps and taps seems to separate you from the room).  The pub also hosts a pool and darts team, as well as a weekly pub quiz, bringing in a regular crowd on the off peak nights during the week.

This is not unique and many of the successful pubs in Calderdale take a similar attitude, generating trade rather than waiting for it to happen.  This is essential if you not in a location where you can considered a “local pub” for a significant local population.   There are some pubs which just defy this and keep trade coming in throughout the week on the back of the beer, the Cross Keys which services Siddal and the surrounding areas is a good example.  A number of the pubs in Sowerby Bridge seem to be able to do the same, for example the Works, as does the Big Six at Saville Park.  Whenever I visit any of these, it is always ticking over nicely whenever regardless of time or day.

Putting on entertainment costs money and you need to take double what it is costing you before you turn a profit.   The more pubs that can keep their numbers up naturally the better, but the events are what get people into the all important habit of visiting your pub.    This year just gone has opened my eyes as I’ve been involved back of house with the promotion and organisation of a number of events and you suddenly appreciate how much effort goes into the setting up beforehand and how much work is involved on the day.   I was also involved in the design of, renovation and promotion of the aforementioned Winky’s Bar and again the amount of work from an artwork, concept design and sourcing of prints and materials point of view was a shock to me, not to mention the hard labour done by the workmen to gut and totally refurbish the room.

This experience, along with talking to a number of pub owners / managers and also knowing how much work and money it takes to turn around a closed pub or convert to a pub (the former being the Cock and Bottle, Bank Top a few years ago which got virtually rebuilt inside and the latter being the Works which was converted from a shell to an lovely space to chill out in) has given me a higher respect for the dedication and work that a lot of a very good landlords all over the country do every day so we can have a good night out at the pub.  The job burns a lot of people out, some good, some bad, and some people just seem to be naturals at it.  The last group you can tell straight away, and it is the same with the staff, some people were just born to be behind a bar serving beer personality wise.

So I hope you enjoy Christmas and the New Year and make your favorite landlord happier by helping him to empty some of those kegs and barrels in the cellar, and while you are there put one behind for them, its been a hard year, they deserve it.