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.