I’m out of touch with what the pub-going public wants. There, I’ve admitted it.
A few days in Shropshire explained that the road to success is probably not my idea of pub perfection.
First stop, Sunday lunchtime in Holden’s Golden Lion in Bridgnorth. A spotless pub with wonderful cask beers and friendly locals. Masses of free cheese and crisps on the bar to feed the punters. The mild went down very quickly, as would the other Holden’s beers if we didn’t have to leave after a pint and a beef and onion cob. Sad to report that on a Sunday lunchtime in a perfect pub there was only half a dozen customers.
We exit perfection and walk past the nearby Wetherspoons. Packed outside and signs of more inside. That’s what many pub-goers want. Tim Martin knows the market and tightening purse strings will help him further.
On to Ludlow for a few days. Monday lunchtime, we wander down the hill to a riverside cafe. Not a pub shocker. Excellent food, a glass of wine. All tables full inside and out and serious money being spent by all.
At 4pm the thirst kicks in and we wander down to the Ludlow Brewery Tap. Old railway building on the edge of town. Comfortable for a brewery tap and decent beers. Not quite a Kirkby Lonsdale Barn but not far off. Closing at 5pm, but packed to the gunnels.
After a pint we head off back into the town centre to the historic Rose and Crown that’s had a bit of a Joule’s makeover. A tasty pint of Slumbering Monk, but we got the feeling it wasn’t doing so well. With just a few locals perched at the bar it didn’t suggest the usual Joule’s pub.
Tuesday lunchtime found us in the Three Tuns in Bishop’s Castle. A wonderful pub with a fine pub brewery history beloved by many. We were the only customers for most of our time there.
These are strange times and I get the feeling that some folk are still wary of the pub. And maybe they’ll never come back. For other people they’ll stick to their regular haunts and people they know.
Increasingly, I’m convinced that what I want from a pub isn’t what most of the market wants. It’s going to be tough going for my version of the perfect pub. Let’s hope enough people love them and more importantly spend money in them.