I was in the Twice Brewed pub near Hadrian’s Wall recently. We were intrigued by their maps of the UK and the World with pins to show customers’ home locations. A pub in the middle of nowhere and a World Heritage Site, it’s not going to get much of its trade from local residents.
Whilst I suspect those from far away are more likely to pin home (more space and more reason), the maps illustrated how important visitors of all kinds are to pubs. Perhaps the word ‘local’ leads many publicans to focus on local trade – the regulars. Regulars – that’s regulars at nursing a pint, not buying food and letting the landlord know how important they are, perhaps?
The Twice Brewed had a range of real ales in good condition (Twice Brewed bitter, Cragnook Well, Trade Star from Firebrick and Wagtail from the wonderful Allendale). Their food was easily restaurant class and the welcome was perfect. But perhaps most importantly we felt like guests.
In the wise, and now ancient, words of Richard Boston, “Customers should remember that the pub is the guv’nor’s house, and usually his home,and should behave like guests”. I didn’t see any hand-written notices telling me to take my boots off, ‘no children near the bar’, or informing us that THESE ARE NOT PUBLIC TOILETS. I was merely expected to behave like a guest, welcomed at the bar and given a chance to choose my beer. I felt as welcome as the next man, regular or not. Few pubs can now afford to be like The Slaughtered Lamb (in American Werewolf in London) with regulars staring up from their beers and muttering about the moors at night.
Most ‘Locals’ aren’t local any more and the idea that local trade will see you right is outdated. That makes the complaints of many such as retiredmartin and pubcurmudgeon about keeping to published opening hours ever more valid. A visitor faced by a closed door is unlikely to try it again.
There was a time when visitors were the icing on the cake. These days, for some pubs, they are almost the whole Battenburg. If landlords would realise where their customers are coming from they’d not be left with crumbs.