Posts Tagged ‘pubs’

Death of the pub and the rise of coffee shops

January 1, 2018

Has the pub had its day, can it be replaced with something better?

According to a snippet on ITV News at the tail end of last year looking at the reopening of a pub, closed for a year, now reopened owned by the community, 29 pubs a week are closing.

If this figure is correct, and not simply regurgitating old statistics, then rate of pub closures as was several years ago. Actually the closure rate accelerating, four years ago it was 26 pubs a week.

Why? Why are pubs closing at an accelerating rate?

Pubcos are one cause of pub closure. These are property owning companies, zombie companies that make no money, can barely service their debt by screwing pub landlords and selling off assets, have large property holdings in pubs. They charge unaffordable rents, landlords are forced to buy drinks through the pubco well in excess of market rate, the landlord goes bankrupt, along comes the next mug to be fleeced of their life savings, or the pub if occupying a prime site sold off for redevelopment.

Pubcos are the classic example of extend and pretend. The banks keep them afloat. Kept afloat they can be listed on the balance sheet as an asset, when in reality they should be on the opposite side and would be if allowed to go bankrupt. There is no realistic possibility of loan repayment.

We also have an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Pubs were owned by breweries. The pub forced to buy from the brewery. The punter left with little or no choice, price hikes, especially if the brewery maintains a local monopoly.

The breweries were stripped of their pubs.

What should have happened, landlords bought the pubs, ran as independent businesses free of the brewery tie. Unfortunately this did not happen. Property developers, the pubcos, borrowed heavily and bought the pubs.

For a brewery, a common interest with the pub in doing well. The more beer the pub sells, the more beer the brewery sells.

For the pubco, no common interest. If the pub closes, find another fool to part from their money or sell off for redevelopment.

Pubcos though are only part of the story.

Too many pubs are badly run, very badly run. They are not pleasant places to be. Noisy, dirty, moronic music blasting out, widescreen TV, pub quizzes, drunken loud mouth idiots, rude and bored bar staff wishing they were elsewhere, serving disgusting rubbish from a global conglomerate chemical factory.

Too many examples could be given. But to list a few. A pub that served excellent, if expensive meals, changes to serving disgusting food but still overpriced; a pub where it was possible to sit in the back courtyard, relax over lunch, clueless new landlord takes over, insults the chef, chef leaves, where once excellent food, choice now burger burger or burger, illegal structures built in the courtyard, goes down market, noise and nuisance alienates neighbours and local council; historic pubs, heritage buildings, destroyed by inappropriate developments; a pub where is was pleasant to sit by the river, until smokers took over — the list is endless.

I have not named the pubs, but others could easily write similar lists, and some will know the pubs I am talking about.

Why have no lessons been learnt from Tim Martin and Wetherspoon? I am no fan of Wetherspoon, or the food they serve, but at least they try, they serve real ale. A pity they insult coffee drinkers and serve LavAzza coffee, even worse from a  machine.

But have the audacity to say pubs badly run, and the pissed trolls emerge from under their bar stools to add their ill-informed two-penny worth. And this included an abusive Camra regional official. A bit like being in a pub.

What we are seeing is an example of postcapitalism. The economy goes one of two ways.

  1. Serfs working for apps, eg Deliveroo and Uber, low paid part time temporary soul destroying McShit jobs, eg bar work, companies like Wagamama and the coffee chains.
  2. Open coops, collaborative commons, sharing society.

If pubs are to have a future, and looking at the current crisis, this is doubtful, pubcos have to be stripped of their pubs, as was the breweries, run free of tie, run as open coops, and far better managed than too many are currently.

Indie coffee shops are rapidly becoming the third place, the place to be to relax, not work, not home.

A well run indie artisan coffee shop, pleasant ambience, clean, art on the walls, live music, acoustic, jazz, classical, people sat chatting with friends, or sat reading a book or working on a laptop, craft beer, quality food and wine, books to browse, and of course serving excellent speciality coffee. And for lone females, added advantage of not being sexually harassed.

It is somewhat ironic, more likely to find craft beer, wine worth drinking, in a coffee shop than in a pub.

Warehouse Speciality Blends is known for its wine, The Underdog for craft beer,  Taylor Made for its cocktails,  Just Made 33 for its food. All serve speciality coffee, either roast their own beans or source from a reputable roastery, take a pride in their coffee.

Atlantis Cafe is a coffee shop in Liopetri, a one horse town, difficult to get to, where tumbleweed blowing through would not look out of place, a coffee shop with a pleasant ambience, where people relax, chat with their friends, play backgammon, that is busy until late. In the tourist areas, the slum bars attract the drunks, the bottom end of the tourist market, stay open until late, but are not busy, many are facing closure. The tourist industry spiralling downwards, the situation in the Middle East granting a temporary reprieve.

Atlantis Cafe, middle of nowhere, is busier than the tourist bars.

Coffee shops in Europe were the places of intellectual dialogue, political and philosophical discourse, haunts of artists. This did not happen in the English ale house, violent political discourse would have rapidly led to blood being shed.  The amount of alcohol consumed leading to retarded offspring.

When was the last time you saw bouncers on the door or a fight break out in a coffee shop?

What if a pub closes, a building that has historic value, is registered locally as a building of historic value, its community value recognised by registering as an Asset of Community Value (though it is difficult to claim a pub an Asset of Community Value when a myth it ever was), sits empty for several months, is stripped bare, restored to how it was as an historic building, reopens as an artisan coffee shop by people who are passionate about coffee, maybe in the evening a restaurant, where the emphasis is on ambience, service, good food, serves craft beer, wine, a venue that hosts cultural events, live music, book discussions and book signings, poetry reading, serves as a gallery for local artists, have we lost anything, or has the community and the local economy gained?

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The Swan

July 17, 2016
Red Arrows fly past over The Swan

Red Arrows fly past over The Swan

How to screw people, charge to sit in the garden during Farnborough Airshow.

Once the Airshow had finished, it was possible to walk into the garden.

The Swan used to be a rough pub. It was refurbished, an excellent job done, barely recognisable.

Then it closed, was refurbished again.  The second refurbishment has destroyed The Swan.

Prices are extortionate. £4-50 for a pint of beer. The barman admitted, complaints all day about the high prices.

No sooner had I sat down in the garden, asked to move please sit at another table.

Later asked to move yet again.

A burger, was quite good.

A second beer.

Now asked to leave the garden, a private party.

The private party did not use the garden.

A small terrace, used to be decking. It too has been destroyed.

Sitting on the terrace, smell of cooking food drifts across the terrace.

All the time I was there, the terrace almost empty, the pub empty, the garden all but empty.

This Is Fucking Vandalism, London’s History And Culture Are Being Destroyed In The Name Of Greed

April 20, 2015

the void

black-capsAround 150 people joined a protest outside The Black Cap public house in Camden yesterday after it closed suddenly and without warning last week.  The long running LGBT venue opened in the 1960s, surviving throughout the days when gay people faced prosecution.  Now it is falling victim to rampant gentrification that respects neither culture or history and seeks only to make as much money as possible for greedy property developers.

Speaking at the protest drag artist Titti La Camp, a former performer at the pub, said 10 gay venues had closed in central London since the current Tory government weren’t elected.  In an all too familiar story, those trying to save The Black Cap believe it is likely to be converted into yet more luxury flats that nobody local can afford.

camden-marketsA few hundred yards away a large part of Camden Market is currently a building site, awaiting being converted…

View original post 795 more words

Unfit to run a pub and yet keeps licence

April 9, 2015
Councillor Bruce Thomas runs La Fontaine pub in Aldershot

Councillor Bruce Thomas runs La Fontaine pub in Aldershot

To run a pub one has to demonstrate a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

The track record of Bruce Thomas would indicate not.

Bruce Thomas would appear to have demonstrated that he not a fit person to hold a pub licence, as this was what was found on numerous raids by licensing officials:

  • out-of-hours drinking
  • out-of-hours music
  • music audible outside of premises
  • smoking on premises
  • disorderly and antisocial behaviour of pub customers
  • customers served whilst drunk
  • Bruce Thomas drunk and incapable of even answering questions

On Tuesday, the licencing committee met.

It beggars belief they allowed him to keep his licence.

Could it be because he is a local councillor and it is the council looking after their own?

Yes they have tightened up the conditions for the pub, and that is good news, but absolutely no way should Bruce Thomas be allowed to retain a pub licence.

What sort of a message does this send out?

It beggars belief Bruce Thomas was allowed to keep his licence.

How long will it be before the licencing committee is again considering fit and proper person to run a pub?

If nothing else, Bruce Thomas has a drink problem, over which everyone appears to be in denial. He should not be anywhere near a drink.

Too pissed to run his own pub

April 2, 2015
Councillor Bruce Thomas runs La Fontaine

Councillor Bruce Thomas runs La Fontaine

La Fontaine has been raided eleven times by council officials, at times also accomanied by police and councillors.

They have found illegal after-hours drinking, illegal on-premises smoking, illegal out-of-hours music.

They would have liked to have questioned the pub landlord Councillor Bruce Thomas, only found he was too intoxicated to answer questions.

Not the behaviour to be expected from a pub landlord, not the behaviour to be expected from a local councillor.

This therefore begs the questions: Why has the pub not been closed, why has the licence to run a pub not been revoked? Why is he still a local councillor?

To run a pub, it is necessary to show fit and proper person.

According to the local comic:

In documents handed to the council, PC Iain Barnes said the La Fontaine was in breach of two of the council’s four licensing objectives – prevention of crime and disorder and prevention of public nuisance.

PC Barnes first visited the pub during the early hours of August 20, 2011, with RBC licensing officer Sue Berry.

They found the front door locked but could see through the window people at the bar and the pub’s disco lights on.

Entering, PC Barnes and Mrs Berry heard people talking about ‘hiding ash trays’ and they could see and smell smoke. They were led to the kitchen where PC Barnes challenged Cllr Thomas about people smoking on the premises, which Cllr Thomas denied.

Further visits by RBC found other breaches of the pub’s 2005 licence, including recorded music being played after hours, people being re-admitted after midnight and patrons drinking outside in areas not covered by the pub’s licence.

The pub’s licence requires it to ensure customers vacate external drinking areas by 10pm and to stop recorded music at 11pm.

PC Barnes found the level of intoxication witnessed during his two most recent visits suggested alcohol was not being sold in a responsible way and people were being served ‘beyond the point of drunkenness’. And that the conduct of Bruce Thomas  painted an unprofessional image and demonstrated an inability to maintain ‘satisfactory control’ of his establishment and customers.

During the planning meeting to discuss the destruction of The Tumbledown Dick, Councillor Bruce Thomas fell over backwards to put the boot in. No vested interest was declared. When later that evening he dared to show his face at the Tilly Shilling, he was asked to justify his deplorable behaviour. He claimed he did not know what was going on and had to vote how he was told to vote by council officials.

Gerald Howarth Saves The Tumbledown Dick

January 14, 2015
Gerald Howarth serves a Big Whopper

Gerald Howarth serves a Big Whopper

The Tumbledown Dick demolition

The Tumbledown Dick demolition

Gerald Howarth must think the local community stupid if his latest Big Whopper is anything to go by.

What can only be seen as an insult to the intelligence of local people, Gerald Howarth claims to have Saved The Tumbledown Dick.

Really, in that case it must be an illusion that it has been demolished, the oldest part demolished, the internals gutted, leaving only most but not all of the front façade intact.

And for what, a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, when there is a Drive Thru only a mile up the road.

The stomach churning stench from McDonald’s is not the only stomach churning stench coming from The Tumbledown Dick.

This is the same Gerald Howarth who did a dirty behind closed doors deal with McDonald’s to destroy Tumbledown Dick, then blatantly lied he had saved.

First he made much of the historic importance of The Tumbledown Dick. The same Gerald Howarth whose track record was to back all the way the destruction of Farnborough town centre, even going so far as to call one retailer whose livelihood was at stake to tell him he could not understand what he was complaining about. Then having emphasised the historic importance of The Tumbledown Dick, he does a dirty little back-door deal with McDonald’s to destroy The Tumbledown Dick. Then having bragged at the rubber-stamping of his sleazy little deal, he has the gall to blatantly lie that he Saved The Tumbledown Dick. You could not make it up if you tried.

Far from Saving The Tumbledown Dick, Gerald Howarth was instrumental in its destruction. Without any consultation with the local community, Howarth engaged in a sleazy back door deal with McDonald’s to destroy a c 1720s coaching inn.

What else doe Howarth get up to?

Serving up a Big Mac and fries. Serving Big Whoppers seems to be a bad habit.

Howarth compares the service he provides with that of McDonald’s:

I myself have 75,000 constituents who I serve and I do that in a similar that McDonald’s approaches its customers.

In the infamous McLibel trial more than a decade ago, the barrister acting for McDonald’s admitted in court they serve junk food.

Is this an implicit admission by Howarth that he provides a junk service? The local community that fought hard to save The Tumbledown would not wish to disagree.

It takes a low life specimen of humanity to act for a pay day loan shark.

Howarth did however have his five minutes of fame, acting as handbag carrier for the Iron Lady.

Howarth opposed the Right of Recall, the right of constituents to dismiss their Member of Parliament. It is easy to see why, turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

Gerald Howarth is a prime example of why people have nothing but contempt for politicians.

It is time to get dirty money out of politics.

Not though only Gerald Howarth.

Vile local trolls did their best to sabotage the campaign, one persistent troll, a public disgrace as a county councillor, posted misinformation, displayed ignorance of planning matters, posted abuse and eventually had to be blocked from posting comments.

Gerald Howarth serves a whopper

Gerald Howarth serves a whopper

Fair deal for pubs

November 19, 2014
Sharp's Doom Bar

Sharp’s Doom Bar

Last night saw an historic victory for pubs. The government was defeated in the House of Commons.

The result

  • pub landlords will be able to have their rents reviewed by an independent body
  • pubs will be able to terminate the pubco tie
  • pubs will be able to by their drinks on the open market, not at artificially inflated prices from the pubos

Pubs are understandably delighted.

For beer drinkers, no more rubbish beer in the pub and prices should drop.

The shares of pubos have gone into free fall.

The pubcos say this is bad news for pubs, will lead to more pub closures.

Why then are pub landlords celebrating?

It means their businesses becomes viable. Currently, only free houses (not tied to pubcos) are viable.

It will only lead to more pub closures if pubcos sell off more pubs to service their debt (which is what they have been doing).

Shame on those MPs who voted in favour of the pubcos.

Name and shame your MP.

We know Gerald Howarth voted for the pubcos. Is anyone surprised?

We must thanks Greg Mulholland and Caroline Lucas whose hard work made this possible.

Slowly slowly, we are starting to see self-serving politicians act for the people not Big Business.

Last night another historic victory. In the US Senate the Keystone XL Pipeline (to bring oil from tar sands in Canada to the US) was defeated.

Today, students tore down the fencing and once again occupied Parliament Square. Remember liar Nick Clegg who promised free student tuition fees and voted with his Tory cronies to triple student fees.

Yesterday, the Czech President was egged.

Today, people took to the streets in Hungary to bring down the corrupt government.

Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone

August 22, 2014
Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone

Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone

Excellent performance by Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone.

Monsters and Masks and Scars from her recently released album Monsters (which can be found on bandcamp). Spine chilling renditions of Beatles cum Paul McCartney classic Yesterday and Nina Simone classic You Know How I Feel.

The Keystone is not a venue for quality live music.

I thought only Jewelia, but it was something called Emerging Talent, where they were emerging from, I do not know, and talent was stretching the definition of talent to breaking point. Jewelia preceded by someone who was like a late night bad karaoke act. Basically it was an Open Mic night under any other name.

Her first song, Jewelia stunned them into silence, she was then drowned by rowdy drunks on a nearby table. Why they could not have had the courtesy to move around the bar into the corner, or maybe had the good manners to keep quiet. Why bother going to a live music night? You Know How I Feel stunned them into silence again. Jewelia was very professional and carried on.

Why do people behave like this, why a pub book live music? Maybe, it is that the pub has moronic music playing all day long (no lessons learnt from J D Wetherspoon), and for regulars, it is music something always there, always in the background, an annoying mush, something to be ignored.

One reason not to have background music, music is then valued, something to be listened to.

The Keystone clueless in their use of social media. No mention of Jewelia playing on their twitter feed, and yet repetition ad nauseam of a jazz night.

Jewelia and Andy deserved better and The Keystone needs to give a serious rethink how they do their live music nights.

Jewelia and Andy played an acoustic set at Staycation Live 2014.

Republished on Medium.

Lunch at The Keystone

July 26, 2014
fish cakes and salad

fish cakes and salad

As yesterday, excellent lunch at The Keystone, but unlike yesterday, not raining.

I gave the soup a miss. Leek and potato is a winter soup. Summer soups: pea and mint, watercress, tomato, courgette, to name but a few.

Fish cakes and salad as main course. Excellent.

The Keystone are participants in Guildford Independent’s Day, and I forgot to get my card stamped.

The Keystone is located at the bottom of the High Street over the bridge, behind St Nicolas Church.

The Gloster

July 19, 2014

On a businesses park, a pub The Gloster or Hungry Horse, confusing as it has two names, and a businesses park a strange place to have a pub, even more so with private security and signs saying No Entry Private Business Park. I have come across ghastly pubs, but none as ghastly as this pub. On offer, a hog roast, at least there was if you were willing to pay £5 or was it £15, as two signs with different price to gain entry

Greed rules ok for local pubs. Fleece visitors every which way.

On a par with the rough pubs in Aldershot, and seemed to attract the same clientèle.