Tuesday 12 March 2013

Unexpected Consequences

Before I went off to London for a break, I asked the landlord of the Baum, Simon, how winning CAMRA National Pub of the Year had affected business. A red faced regular butted in "It's ruined the place on Friday and Saturdays - it's full of young local people looking for alcopops". It seems that a piece (which I haven't seen, but if it is the same as this, fairly harmless I'd have thought)in the Rochdale Observer, has attracted much attention from local drinkers, who have subsequently come in for a look. Good news you'd have thought, but it seems these aren't, shall we say, the usual discerning customer the Baum is used to. The are looking for Fosters and Blue WKD, cheap lager by the bottle, lurid drinks enhanced by caffeine and loud thrumming music. The Baum doesn't offer any of these.

Now as someone whose own local has been from time to time, almost taken over by outsiders, I can see where the regular is coming from. You get used to your pub being a certain way and with the same faces and enjoy the steady familiarity of place and people. It is why you come in the first place.  You feel ill at ease when that appears to be challenged. You unconsciously adopt a kind of proprietorial sense of "mine".

Simon was much calmer though. He doesn't sell the kind of drinks his new temporary customers want. He feels it will be a short term phenomenon as folks revert to places that sell what they like, but they've been for a look and as long as they behave, why not? The daytime business though has brought many more of the usual Baum types from far and wide as evidenced by his new visitor's book. It will all settle down and he is right; nobody continually visits a pub where what it sells and the type of company therein isn't what they are comfortable with. The Blue WKD mob will pass and hopefully the honour of being National Pub of the Year will bring good new business of a kind that is in keeping with the pub and its regulars. I am sure it will.

Nonetheless an interesting and unexpected development.

All pubs tend to get a sudden influx for various reasons from time to time, but it almost always settles down.  It is sometimes a mystery where these folks come from.  Or why. Less so in this case.


Cooking Lager said...

How can a pub be "pub of the year" and sell no fosters? Or the most popular beers in the country? Ah, by offering CAMRA discounts. I see.

Before CAMRA there were pubs. Some were posh and some were dumps. I gather you knew what to expect a short while after entering.

At what point did the "CAMRA pub" become a recognised type of pub? You know lots of hand pumps, Vedett beer signs, Paulaner coasters, Middle class berghaus fleece wearing public sector employee bearded punters. It could not of been early doors in the 70's. Was it an 80's or 90's thing? When CAMRA types decided to shun the pubs of regular folk and sit in their own inauthentic but safe beer enthusiast theme pubs?

Tandleman said...

That's it. Or by offering discerning drinks that suit the clientèle? After all there are loads of Fosters selling pubs, so point if difference and all that.

What's inauthentic about safe? Can only dodgy pubs be authentic?

Bailey said...

This does seem odd. London pubs/bars get it when Time Out lists them, hence the Southampton Arms full to bursting with people drinking wine and vodka. Nothing wrong with that, but you wonder why that particular pub. Perhaps people like being in the kind of pub that sells decent beer even if they don't actually like beer themselves? A kind of 'brand value' thing?

Cooking Lager said...

It's a point of view, I guess, but unless I am offered stolen goods it is not an authentic pub. All else are middle class theme pubs and you take your pick what theme you like, whether plastic irish, all day carvery, lout & footie, mock traditional or beer geek.

I gather the battle within the beard club is largely between those that like mock traditional & those that like beer geek. Not sure the best one out of that theme gets to be best overall boozer though.

Neville Grundy said...

Cooking Lager: even the stolen goods criterion doesn't always work. Years ago, I was waiting for my friends to arrive in a pub in Bournemouth when I was approached by a young man with a large bag who asked me: "Would you like some venison?" A far cry from being offered socks or batteries in Anfield.

Cooking Lager said...

Did the venison look like it had been hacked off the side of a recently deceased bit of poaching or was it in a clingfilm covered polystyrene waitrose tray? Was the vendor wearing a dirty trackie or barbour coat? Not saying it's not authentic, Nev, just deciding whether its a posh gaff or dump.

Neville Grundy said...

I didn't see the venison, but he didn't look like the usual scally I'm used to seeing selling knock-off stuff in pubs.

Red Faced Regular said...

Well Peter, if anything it was worse than ever on Saturday and almost totally full of tourists, some of them local. Quite a few of the regulars have decamped to The Cemetery (a pub, not for tinnies C L). We had to leave ourselves at about 10 as it was horrible and full of loud numpties. Simon & Heidi had already left.

I hope you and Simon are correct in that it will all fade, but which of the regulars will be left when it does?

Paul Bailey said...

It's the herd mentality at work again. Unfortunately some people seem incapable of thinking for themselves, and will almost blindly follow recommendations they see in colour supplements and similar publications. As both yourself and the last correspondent have pointed out, the influx of new, curious and new sensation seeking visitors is often to the detriment of the regular users of the attraction, be it pub, restaurant or even scenic location.

The latter point is aptly illustrated by a wonderfully unspoilt beach in Norfolk that my father told me about. It remained unspoilt and virtually deserted until some idiot jourmalist not only wrote about it in one of the Sunday supplements, but also gave away its location. It is now thronged by hordes of braying sheep-like visitors every weekend during the summer, and on fine days out of season as well.

In short it's the age old problem of places becoming victims of their own success, and the very thing which made them special in the first place becomes diluted to start with and ultimately destroyed altogether.

johng said...

One of the reasons its pub of the year is because it doesn,t sell Fosters leaving room on the bar for less popular but in some peoples opinion better beers.Nothing is new about regulars hating their local as it get busier nor publicans loving it.Its a business after all.

Tandleman said...

RFR - You have to stick it out and trust Simon on this one really.

Tandleman said...

RFR - You have to stick it out and trust Simon on this one really.

Red Faced Regular said...

By the way Peter, your comment that "the type of company therein isn't what they are comfortable with." wasn't valid on Saturday. All the numpties were very happy with the company they were in as ALL of the people in the pub were like themselves and NONE of the people in there were regulars after 10.

Cooking Lager said...

"herd mentality" "blindly follow recommendations"

Isn't the point of a beard club award that it is a recommendation to visit a particular establishment? Isn't the hope that it influences people to do that?

Isn't this problem no more than "oh god, we have influenced the wrong sort of people, not our sort"

It is little different from the moan that railway real ale trails are being ruined by lager drinkers that saw a recommendation on the telly for a nice day out.

This is the society we live in. Your choice and the choice of your beery campaign is to engage with society or withdraw from it. It's a free choice.

Tandleman said...

Cookie. I merely comment on this. As always those that are allowed into any pub and how they behave are dictated by the policies of the management of the establishment. You have to manage success as well as failure.

If they are being offensive, chuck them out. Word will soon get out.


I empathise, but as we found in our pub, you stick it out.

Curmudgeon said...

I don't remember it making any significant difference to the trade of the Nursery in Heaton Norris, Stockport when it won National Pub of the year in 2002. Mind you, that's not in a town centre location so people would have to make a certain amount of effort to get there.

Anonymous said...

Sadly this is not a new phenomina.

The Batley to Stalybridge train crawl has turned into a Saturday p*ss up. There were pictures of drunks at the stations/on the trains on a tv program about the railways. Many had cans of lager/alocpops in theit hands.