I took a look today at the Roebuck in Urmston, one of Holts’ flagship pubs, which was badly damaged by fire a couple of years ago and has been given an extensive and thoroughgoing refurbishment. It’s not bad at all – although done in a generally “contemporary” style, it retains a vault and the lounge still has a fair amount of traditional pub-style bench seating.
But I was taken aback to be charged £2.23 for a pint of Holts Bitter – a full fifteen pence more than Original Bitter in my local Hydes pub. Make no mistake, the beer was good, the pub is smart and comfortable, and I don’t begrudge paying that. But it’s a far cry from the days twenty years ago when Holts were champions of the good value pint. Even in the Griffin in Heaton Mersey it’s still somewhere in the £1.70s.
At about ten past two on a Saturday afternoon there was a notable dearth of customers in the vault – you do have to wonder whether Holts have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in trying to take their pubs upmarket.