Monday, 15 March 2010

Ticking Over

Our pub, bereft of Landlady continues to provide Sunday entertainment for us. It is being run more or less on a wing and prayer, as despite having departed for pastures new, the Landlady remains responsible for it until a new tenant is found. It was busy yesterday and the beer was in very good form, so we battled on regardless. I have done a few shifts behind the bar, lit fires and looked after beer, as have one or two others. We are pitching in. It isn't in our interests to see the pub close, even though opening hours are severely limited. We all hope a new tenant is found soon and we listen eagerly to the various rumours of who might or might not be interested.

This is the thing that those who don't have a long term local just don't understand, that is, why me and others are prepared to do things for nothing just to keep a pub open? But it's our pub. We have been going there for donkey's years now, seen several tenants come and go and we will be there after the next one has come and gone too. Good publicans make pubs, but good customers do too and we have some brilliant customers. There is even various talk of co-operatives if all else fails, but we doubt if it will come to that. We reckon someone from not too far away will take it and we can all relax again.

On a similar note, on Saturday night I was a guest at another landlady's leaving do in another lovely pub. Like our pub, the locals are worried about who will take over. This is a bigger operation altogether and the ingoings are hefty. Everyone who drinks in pubs sees the "Tenancy Available" signs all around and that same nagging worry that no-one will be found, eats at their regulars too. The pub was heaving on Saturday night, but you couldn't help but reflect on two things. Firstly that pubs always used to be as busy as it was that night and secondly, that if all the people that attended the farewell party had come more often, there probably wouldn't have been the need for one.

On a more positive note, the Landlady is doing well at her new pub. All the smooth beer has been dumped and four cask ales installed. The place has been made over in her own inimitable way. It is trading well. Our loss is Thwaites gain. Likewise the other licensee has gone to Robinsons and will no doubt be a success - she knows her stuff. I don't know the full stories behind either departure, but whatever it is, two local pubs to me have lost two splendid landladies and that isn't good.

The silver lining in this pair of clouds though, is that at least they aren't leaving the trade and clearly still have faith in pubs. As a pub goer and trade observer, I'm pleased about that.


Neville Grundy said...

You're right to be concerned. A few years ago the best pub in Southport was the Falstaff - 10 real ales and always busy, and I viewed it as my local at the time. We had regular music sessions there, and it was a general meeting place for a couple of groups of friends of mine. Then the licensee moved on, and the Falstaff was taken over by a family who simply ran it into the ground; I only ever saw the licensee once. The Falstaff has an enthusiastic licensee today, but he has a major job trying to build it back up from the mess it was left in.

I hope that doesn't happen to your local.

GS said...

Brewery tenancies are a low-cost way into the business so they could, I suppose, be an attractive step up from being a manager employed by a chain. At least they provide a roof over the tenant's head.

However because you're generally tied all wet products (not just beers/ciders, which is the standard deal with a pubco lease) and the goodwill is retained by the brewery (meaning there's no chance of a return on capital investment), they're particularly unattractive to anyone who actually wants to make money from the pub trade. Add to that the fact that you can be turfed out on a whim by a brewery every time the tenancy agreement comes up for renewal (usually every three years).

Coxy said...

Would you still go to your local if the new tenants insisted on smoothflow only, and only had cask at xmas served without a Sparkler?

Tandleman said...

Even though you are clumsily trying to take the piss, the answer is no - I'd find a new local.

As cask amounts for 73% of sales though, that's not likely. Why would you do such a thing?

GS said...

Cask is 73% of sales? Are you sure? Do you mean 73% of wet sales? Even then that's a high figure. No wonder the tenant wanted to leave. Ale is the lowest margin product you can sell.

Tandleman said...

I did indeed mean wet sales. Ale might be a low margin sale, but it would be something other than a pub if she didn't sell any.

You really have to know the pub in this instance to understand it.

Coxy said...

sorry wasn't taking the piss, but I have seen it happen down south in pubs where they seem to have a good turnover of Ale, I suppose more usually a biggish company who puts a T bar in and thinks the pumps won't suit their image.