I have never missed writing an article for this column in 6 years and this week was the closest I’ve come to it so far. I’ve contracted a pretty serious chest infection and spent 4 days at the Hotel Calderdale Royal Hospital being pumped full of their finest Chateau de Antibiotic. Not much scope for drinking sadly as the onsite bar is pretty non existent.
I moved to Calderdale in 1998, living in various places on Beacon Hill before settling in Bank Top. Back then, with no kids or real responsibilites I drank a hell of a lot more. My pub scene then still has some hanger-oners, but most have dropped by the wayside. My usual Halifax haunts were Brass Cat, Upper George (only one off this ist I visit now), O’Neills, Old Cock, and the thee pubs whic made up the real ale triange, even though it wasn’t really my scene then. For those who don’t remember the triange was the Pump Room (now demolished), Three Pigeons and Royal Oak (now Dirty Dicks).
I even went to Collesium and Maine Street for my sins. Imagine now paying £6 to get into an over priced venue just so you could carry on drinking post 11.30 at night. Looking back it’s amazing how much the drinking culture has changed, nightclubs are now visited for the musical genre, DJ or atmosphere. If you want to drink till 2am now, Wetherspoons can do the same job for £2.50 a pint as the club will do for £4.50 plus per pint.
Many local pubs had “private parties” for regulars most Friday and Saturday nights which went on till 1 or 2 in the morning, some a lot later, escpecially on New Years Eve when it ran till 4-5am. How many of us used to catch a cab at 10.30 back from town to the local so you made sure you were in before the locks got shut at 10:50. This was all just part of the drinking game back at the turn of century.
At the turn of the millenium me, my now wife and another couple headed into Halifax, after a pretty decent pub crawl We came to the once in a 1000 years event at Midnight 1999 and Halifax did it in the only way it knew, an unbelievibly shit way by pretty doing nothing! Most of the pubs were charging way over the odds for entry, but we ended up having a drink to see in the year 2000 in some bar or other before catching a taxi home not long after. We’ve not done a New Years Eve out in town since!
Looking back, the pub scene was healthy back then, however it was well before the crash. I judge this in retrospect by how my local pub (The Cock and Botte, Baank Top) was doing back then. In 2000 it was full both weekend evenings and on Sunday afternoons you couldn’t move for drinkers all session, almost a regular party each week. From about 2002 onwards you saw the numbers slowly but steadily drop across these three sessions until about 2006 it was down by about 50%, the 2007 crash knocked those numbers even more until some sunday afternoons you could count customers on two hands. Not long in the future the landlord gave the place back to Enterprise Inns. The pub reopened as freehold, free of tie and totally redeveloped in 2010 and has been thriving for the last 6 years.
Looking at the pub and bar scene now, it is unrecognisable now in many aspects, and familiar in others. Many of Halifax’s pubs stil serve a very similar range of beers to some the same customers as they did in 2000. We have lost many pubs to other business types and we’ll nevr get them back, but those that have survived are those which have a sound basis for trading. But the re-rise of the Real Ale pub and Craft bars is what has changed the picture of the modern pub scene. Micropubs are dominating new openings around Calderdale, 4 in the last 2 years in Halifax, Hogshead in Sowerby Bridge, 3 in Hebden Bridge, plus one in Mytholmroyd and Brighouse each all in the same time frame. These join the establshed names on the Calderdale real ale scene, Fox and Goose, Big Six, Three Pigeons, Red Rooster, Head of Steam, Travellers Rest and many more. When the best elements of the pub scene are being copied in new venues, it is only good and lets hope that continues.