Saturday, 23 June 2012

The smell of death

It’s been recently reported that a well-regarded pub company pub in the Peak District fringes a few miles outside Stockport has closed, and looks unlikely to reopen. It had a fair number of houses nearby, but not enough to sustain it without outside visitors. I called in last year, and wasn’t particularly impressed. While food was advertised, there were no menus on tables, and it generally seemed shabby. There were six real ales on offer, but during my stay I saw none pulled apart from the pint that I had ordered, which gave a distinct impression of being the first out of the pump. The prices seemed at least 20p/pint above the local norm, which is especially objectionable if your beer isn’t up to scratch.

In retrospect, its closure isn’t all that surprising and, while it’s hard to nail it down, it has to be said that there are some pubs you visit that have the “smell of death” about them. For all I knew, this pub could have been heaving in the evenings, but there were other cues apart from the lack of trade. You can tell the difference between a thriving evening pub that is quiet at lunchtime, and a pub that is just struggling overall. I would say food advertised outside but no menus on tables at a recognised food serving time is a good sign. Also nobody eating at 1 pm on a weekend despite the presence of menus.

In a location like that, while food may be the icing on the cake, you also need to cultivate and encourage your locals and regulars.

I’ve only once had an “OMG, it’s closed!” moment with a pub, the Railway at Heatley. Hopefully in future I’ll spot the signs in advance.


  1. Martin, Cambridge23 June 2012 at 15:47

    re: the Railway, this was indeed an unexpected loss. On a couple of visits on a weekend evening it was heaving with drinkers, which I guess isn't enough to sustain a pub in a relatively affluent part of Greater Manchester.

  2. To be pedantic, the Railway was in both historic and "administrative" Cheshire, not in Greater Manchester. In my last couple of visits, it had seemed a bit quiet, and the beer a bit pricey, but I was still gobsmacked to find it closed.

  3. I've noticed recently three distinct signs of a pub closing. First a number of drinks are 'off' awaiting a delivery. Next other drinks are several pennies more expensive and lastly you see the landlord drive up with a barrel on the back seat of his car.
    Can't feel too sad for them, all have sold their souls to the restaurant business pretending to be a pub. Drinkers were forced out, no smokers shelters at all and pie and mash eaters moved in. Unfortunately they don't come any more and the drinkers that kept the pub open for decades have moved on.

  4. Have a read through the annual reports of Berkshire Hathaway. The ones with the homespun wisdom of Warren Buffet. There are plenty of signs businesses give out to indicate they are hitting the skids. Signs of desperation, changes based on optimism. All can be applied to pubs.

    But yeh, you can kind of sense when a business is on the skids.


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