Last week, it was announced that the lease of the Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge would not be renewed by the current management team and would be available for a new tenant in January 2015.  The incumbent, Simon, has ran the Puzzle Hall for 5 years now and during that time it has gained a reputation for being one of the best live music venues in the area with an eclectic range of bands.  Simon now operates the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe in Halifax, one of the best beer houses in Halifax for both craft and cask.   I’d spoken to Simon a couple of months ago and he’d mentioned to me that he was considering the future of the Puzzle Hall, so it appears that nothing changed his mind in that period.  The pub was under the ownership of Punch Taverns, which like all PubCo controlled pubs comes with the disadvantages of not having full control of your drink choices and higher than wholesales prices.  It is now operating under a specialist company who manage the “head office” functions pertaining to the day to day running of a pub.  

On a personal note, it is sad to see the venue will probably not be operating in its current form post January.   The pub has a cracking set up for live music with dedicated areas both outside and inside for bands, as well as a decent range of beers.  The venue generates a fantastic live atmosphere in both areas and has a dedicated set of regulars lapping up every note.  In recent years it was the pub we’d pop into as a family if visiting the town.  I’d hope that the next management team keeps some live music going, but I can’t see them committing to 2-3 live bands a week as well as the three full weekend festivals as bands do not come cheap.   My question is how many customers are loyal to Simon and the live music scene and how many to the pub itself as an business and building.   Like I’ve said before, it is people who attract you to a pub and this was true with me and the Puzzle Hall Inn, I could get a wider range of beers 100 metres up the road, but I’d rather support the businesses of people I get on with personally and try to do something different.   If the new team revert the pub to putting on a cover band on a Saturday night and a range of mainstream real ales with a rotating guest, it is no different to many other pubs in the area and old customers will drift elsewhere.   There are big shoes to be stepped into with this pub.   

And now more adventures in non drinking.    As you read this in Pubpaper, I’ll only have 2 radiotherapy treatments left and will be entering the recovery stage.   The radiotherapy is actively working for 2 weeks after the physical treatment finishes, so the recovery really starts at the end of November.   It’s been a hard last 3 weeks physically, the combination of five different painkillers sapping you of all energy some days.   The worse bit is that food feels like a sheet of sandpaper going down your throat rough side out unless you numb your mouth just before meals.  The weight loss can be staggering as well and the supplements you take pure calories (the most dense are 600 calories in 125ml), apparently at its peak my body will expend 5500 – 7500 calories a day keeping my body operating and fighting the cancer cells.  As you can guess this combination puts a stopper on a lot of your social life and you have to stock up rest to make the effort to go out.

But I do make the effort to see people I like and have been around for me.    When in good health and with a spare afternoon, there was nothing better than a few hours in the pub, and it was the same last week.   Last week I had a chilled few hours up at the Commercial Brighouse, even though I’m now nursing a single bottle of Erdinger Alcohol Free over a whole afternoon.   Even without the beer, it was just really nice to sit at the bar, chatting to friends and other pub locals, normality restored to my life for a few hours.  I’ve always said that the place feels like someone’s home, and that is what you really look for in a regular haunt, somewhere warm and welcoming.  All my favourite pubs have this core element.  You can get beer for £1 per pint at your local supermarket. but you don’t get the extras a pub offers you.