Saturday, 1 August 2009

No room at the inn

Today I called in to the Salopian Bar in Shrewsbury, the current Shropshire CAMRA Pub of the Year. Good range of mostly local real ales, a few proper real kegs, plenty of interesting bottles. So you can understand why it won the award. But there was a disappointing dearth of decent seating. There is a central bar and three distinct areas. One had a few high-level posing tables, the second expansive, low-level sofas that allow one to sit where five could normally be accommodated, and only the third had normal chairs at tables, albeit no benches even there. If the pub had standard wall-mounted bench seating in all three areas it could probably cater for three times as many seated customers. Surely the lack of seating must impact on trade – it baffles me why pub owners sacrifice capacity in this way in the interest of appearing trendy. The picture shows the aforementioned posing tables and gives a good idea of the general not-very-pubby ambiance.

Wetherspoon’s are another major offender – I have been in plenty of their pubs which hardly seemed busy yet all the tables were taken. If they used wall benches they would be able to accommodate lots more seated customers. But apparently benches make a pub look old-fashioned. So it goes, I suppose, can’t be having too many people in pubs otherwise they might be too successful.

If you’re in Shrewsbury, the Admiral Benbow is a must-visit pub, with a wide range of local real ales and ciders, and plenty of comfortable bench seating too. Unfortunately it only opens at lunchtimes on Saturdays.

Incidentally, I was followed around Shrewsbury by a rowdy, youthful stag party, including a guy wearing a pink smock and horns. Not surprisingly, they were served in Wetherspoon's, somewhat more surprisingly they were served in the Armoury, the up-market Brunning & Price pub. How often do you hear the cry “lagers all round” in there? I suspect a more mature barperson might have asked them to take their custom elsewhere, as some of the clientele were visibly flinching. Encouragingly, they then went into the Admiral Benbow and seemed to be politely told that wasn't quite their type of pub. Nothing wrong with rowdy stag parties as such, but some pubs aren't the place for them.


  1. I think Proper Real Keg ought to be capitalised, surely?

    Yes, seating, something I really need to do more about.

  2. There are a few comments on BITE suggesting your pub is a bit short in the seating department, Dave ;-)

  3. I'm not surprised, but everything takes time. Lack of comfortable, rather than lack of bum space though.

    Also, when most of your pub customers are muddy walkers with either dogs, kids or both in tow, you can't afford to put loads of dosh into posh seats. They would only get wrecked anyway.

    Except for the posh residents and restaurant end, which basically subsidises the whole damn operation anyway. Which is why we keep the public away from the posh end. I guess that gets said on BITE as well. I don't look at BITE, it depresses me.

  4. Out of respect for Proper Real Keg, it would be nice to know what beers you're referring to. This is beneficial to your readers. I for one would like to know if we're on the same page when it comes to Proper Real Keg. By definition it may mean something totally different to you.

    Thank you and take some total, blessed, care while you're at it.

  5. It was some Belgian fruity stuff, I didn't note the names.

    I have a pint of Stonehouse Station Bitter which was a bit underwhelming.

  6. I don't like this trendy "minimalist" aproach to pub interiors. If people are sitting down to drink then they're less likely to cause trouble.
    If the photo's anything to go by, then I don't like the decor of the Salopian Bar!

  7. Some pubs seem to like to encourage standing. I suspect you can get more punters in that way. My drink is never enjoyable if I have to stand. Standing is the preferred position of the tosser. It makes it easier to hog the bar that way.


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