Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - October 2005
A captive market is no guarantee of trade for a pub
RECENTLY there were reports that a local pub was to close and the site be sold off for housing. Someone expressed surprise that it hadn't been more successful given all the people living close by. But the pub trade doesn't necessarily work like that, and the idea that people come home from work, have their tea and then go out to the local is less and less representative of real-world patterns of pubgoing.
There are plenty of local examples of pubs that have closed despite being in the middle of densely populated areas with few other pubs nearby, such as the Wembley in Adswood and the Fallowfield. Obviously in some locations the pubs concerned have had problems of disorder, but that can't apply to places like the Bleeding Wolf in leafy Hale where the site proved just too attractive for a development of flats, while the former Blue Bell in Wilmslow is now a Majestic Wine Warehouse.
There is a story behind every pub closure, but it is clear that plonking a pub down in the middle of a housing estate is no guarantee of success, despite the large potential market. The locations where pubs are thriving tend to be in town and city centres, and in suburban hubs like Cheadle and Didsbury, where they are more visible, there is more passing trade, and they feed on others' success. In contrast, the estate pub in the midst of its sea of under-used car park often looks more like a beached whale.
Technique and appearance are important when pulling a pint
EARLY EDITIONS of the “Good Beer Guide” contained various stock phrases such as “keen licensee” that in reality meant little or nothing to the prospective visitor to a pub. But one that has far more present-day relevance is “a well-presented pint”.
On the face of it, this may seem to be a meaningless platitude, but how often do you go in a pub and find that your pint has been pulled in a totally incompetent manner? Either the sparkler has been loosened or removed, so you end up with a pint of flat glop, or there is an airlock in the line, and the bar staff are sawing away at the pump and producing a glass full of froth. I have even seen some bar staff deliberately leaving the head a quarter of an inch below the brim in a brim measure glass.
The way to do it is to pull at the pump slowly and steadily, and then to ensure the final drop is squeezed out just as the head is on the point of overflowing the glass. That way, you will truly get a “well-presented pint”. And having bar staff who actually drink real ale and know what the discerning customer expects must be a step in the right direction.