Friday 13 July 2018

Cain's to Return to Liverpool?

Readers of this blog will recall that Robert Cain, based in the old Higson's Brewery (itself the original Cain's Brewery) in Stanhope St, Liverpool, closed under somewaht of a shitstorm in May 2013. See the Liverpool Echo here for full details.

Suffice to say that the Dusanj brothers who bought the brewery had a somewhat chequered career in brewing and pub running, but finished with an idea of turning the Stanhope St site and its historic Grade 2 listed brewery into a "Brewery Village" with a hotel, beer hall and whatnot.  This never happened, though there is some beery activity on the site on a small scale now.

Now it seems it will. Local entrepreneur - well Rainford, but that's close enough - Andrew Mikhail, has taken the plan forward and in a £7 million plan, agreed a deal with owner (I think)  Sid Dusanj to take over the Cains brand and bring forward his 15,000 sq ft scheme on three levels of the original Cains Brewery building. Plans include a craft-brewery with cask and keg beers, an Altrincham-market style venture for artisan food & drink lovers, and a state of the art sky bar.

In addition, another bar with capacity for 120, already named as The Quarter Hoop, plus a brewery hall housing 400 guests will sit alongside the existing Brewery Tap and the Punch Tarmey brand (part of Mr. Mikhail’s existing portfolio) that will operate on the other side of the brewery.

The development will take place in four phases over three years include in  phase one, Punch Tarmey, an artisan food and drink hall. The brewery will follow in phase two, the sky bar in phase three and the hotel in phase four. Mikhail said the new Cains Brewery project will create 200 jobs and will partly model itself on Guinness Brewery in Ireland. He added: “For example, we’re going to create one of the biggest Irish bars in the industry that will be sports-led, include brewery tours, lots of customer interaction with a child-friendly, family-friendly vibe.” 

The building is wonderful and I for one certainly hope this all comes to fruition. There are already many reasons for the beer lover to go to Liverpool and hopefully, fingers crossed, this will be one more.

The revival of the Cain's brand is interesting, with Higson's (without the famous bitter, already revived), history is being recreated in Scousley.

Wonder if the Dusanj brothers are getting a cut? Who will own the site? Dunno, but watch this space.

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Down Memory Lane

I read, with a great deal of interest, Mudgie's article in response to one by Boak and Bailey referred to on Twitter and linked.  The subject, paraphrased, is dodgy pubs.  Now it has to be said that Boak and Bailey aim their piece squarely at the (American) visitor as it was published in All About Beer Magazine, but there is more than a grain of truth in their observations, summed up in this paragraph, which Mudgie quotes. It is necessary for me to do the same as it provides context.

"But if you wander into side streets, the outer suburbs, or into the shade of concrete tower blocks, you might still come across the kind of pub where it is possible for an innocent abroad to get into trouble. There aren’t many exterior clues other than a general state of disrepair, although with experience you develop a kind of sixth sense based on the state of the curtains or some subtle hint implied in the signage."

Like my colleague Pub Curmudgeon, I too have been visiting pubs where I'm not known for over 40 years and like Mudgie, I have had few problems in so doing.  Of course, to some extent in terms of pubs, you do develop a sense of impending danger and are able to quietly slip away before anything difficult to deal with occurs. I agree too that as you get older, you present no real challenge to those with the potential to do you harm at worst -  or alarm - which in itself is bad enough, but likely more difficult to deal with for the foreign visitor, who is already struggling to understand both culture and nuance.

I did relate on Mudgie's blog, a little story of my time in Liverpool, when I was once physically attacked, though then as a fit football playing young man under 30, I was able to shrug off my attacker, though not the locals who grabbed me and chucked my out on my ear, but no more than that.  In recalling this incident, I looked up the name of the pub concerned (The Newstead Abbey -see photo from Google)  as memory had faded. In doing so I came across this fantastic review of what was my manor. It talks about the pubs I used to visit frequently, most of which are closed. It concentrates on Smithdown Road in Liverpool 7. I lived 100 yards from that road, though most of my local drinking was done in the parallel roads and back streets. Nonetheless, those were pubs I visited frequently and usually with great pleasure.  The bus went from Smithdown Road, so it had that handiness too for a quick pee when returning from Town, or a swifty on the way there.

Do read the linked article. It hints at a pub life that has faded away to a large extent and in its observations, suggests I think, about why the beleaguered remainder may not be as welcoming as I can assure, most once were.

I think that the Newstead Abbey has now closed. My own local, The Earl Marshall a mere 100 yards away was still open fairly recently, but who knows now. 

The writer of the other article speaks of his dislike for the New Campfield. Me too. Unlike the rest (Mulliner excepted - ) it was keg. Whitbread of course. 

The photo is of the Mulliner which was a Tetley pub which sold "Drum Bitter" or keg. It was a nice boozer inside and very welcoming, but was called something else then which I can't remember, but everyone called it the Mulliner.. 

Photo:By Rept0n1x [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Nice Lot in the East Riding

When it comes to how you best increase the viability of pubs and to a lesser extent how you make your venue more attractive to the diminishing number of pub devotees, one aspect that is overlooked when suggesting themed evenings, upping the food offer, serving cream teas, breakfasts, or using it as a venue for the local slimming club or the like, is simply getting the staff to smile, or even, horror of horrors actually talk to customers.

I may have mentioned this before - of course I have - I'm always banging on about it - but as someone who was trained properly in how to act behind the bar it always amazes me that this simple and cheap aspect is largely overlooked.  Last week three of us were served (separately and at different times) by the same "Shift Leader" in a local JDW without the server actually looking any of us in the eye. She did though manage to conduct, simultaneously and not without a deal of dexterity, an apparently more satisfactory and enjoyable conversation with her colleagues standing at the drinking side of the bar, who had just finished their own stint on the staff side of it. So, on the bright side, she did know how to do it, just it seems, not in the context of her job.

Simple things like "Hello" when you arrive and "Thanks" when you leave, an assuring "I'll be with you in a minute" if the bar is busy, are easy to do, but make a massive difference to how the customer perceives the place. It can literally can be money in the bank. If somehow staff can be taught to parrot annoyingly  "Is there anything else?" as if dealing with a chronic amnesiac, then surely the odd greeting and goodbye can't be beyond them?  As for the meaningless "You all right there?" well, I covered that one here years ago when it was in its infancy, but it goes on still, and still grates as much.  Try unambiguous "Can I help you?" or "What can I get you?" Trust me it will annoy the customers a lot less, especially grumpy old bastards like me, though of course like all customer facing jobs, you need to adapt your approach according to the situation.

But it wasn't last weeks JDW encounter that prompts this. On last weekend's trip to Hull and Beverley, it was noticeable how the staff in that neck of the woods, despite hoards of people - including our busload arriving more or less at once at one or two places - all seemed to be pleasant, interested and helpful - often unpromptedly suggesting pubs, or joining in conversations to give directions, or asking where we came from.  I don't recall one "You all right there?"  Well done to all.

Unless of course it was the sunshine that made them smile? Can't see it being that though surely. They were stuck inside.

Got a couple more tales to tell from that weekend of unbroken sunshine and indeed fairly unbroken boozing.

I also went to Nellies in Beverley. A Sam's gem. You'll all know it of course?