Friday 24 January 2014

Geezers at the bar

On Oh Good Ale, Phil wrote of his experience in calling in to the Cocked Hat (ex Pack Horse) on Stockport Market Place:
It struck me as one of those pubs which would be written up as warm, friendly and welcoming, but only by its regulars. Put it this way, there were five or six punters stood in front of the bar, and every one of them looked round as I came in. The last time that happened to me the punters were speaking Welsh. As for the beer, there were five or six hand pumps, but it was actually quite hard to see all the pump clips, what with the discussion group parked in front of the bar...
This prompted me to do a blogpost on a subject I had been mulling over for a while. Very often a group of geezers chatting at the bar is a positive sign that you’ve walked in to somewhere that still functions as a pub as opposed to a dining venue. But, on the other hand, if they are the only customers, it’s a bad sign. And I can’t help thinking that the buggers would be better off sitting down to continue their conversation once they’ve got their drinks, or at the very least moving away from the counter.

In many cases a group of voluble barflies encountered immediately you walk in through the door can be seriously offputting. Ideally, they should be in the vault, but in general they aren’t, even if the pub still has one. If they’re standing at the bar in a line it can make it difficult to get served or to see what beers are available, even more so if they’re sitting on barstools. And as for barstools with backs, what an abomination!

There’s one pub where I deliver the local CAMRA magazine where in my view a cluster of regulars chatting around the apex of the bar just inside the entrance gives a very poor initial impression, and a Wetherspoon’s where a group gather and block the view of the handpumps. They also very often seem to be the kind of guys (and you’ll know what I mean) who have a bunch of keys attached to the waistband of their trousers.

If I ran a pub there would be no barstools, let alone barstools with backs. What’s that I hear? “If you ran a pub there would be no customers!”?


  1. My local is like this, and it's generally because they/we are all chatting to the person behind the bar, who's as much of a regular as the rest of us. If we went in another room they'd be excluded from the conversation.

  2. My local tends to be like this. And, from time to time, I'm one of the five or six punters/geezers* standing at the bar; so when somebody comes up to the counter (especially a flatlander) I'll always stand back and let them through - as I know how, as you say, off putting it can be. Sitting down to continue your conversation isn't always possible and, anyway, you can't clock who's just walked in. Vertical drinking even in non vertical drinking establishments is still, sometimes, a better way to spend the evening.

    * No keys on waistband I'm afraid to report. Or glasses on a chain 'round my neck. Yet.

  3. I'd come in your pub, Mudge, but I would complain a lot. I would mainly complain about the lack of pork pie in my agricultural worker themed cheese salad. I would also draw a cock and balls in chalk on the dart board counter.

    But yeh, bar blockers are a pain in the jacksy. All depends how many they are and how long the bar is, but by and large they are jerks. Pubs are full of jerks, it's what I've been telling you. All this crap about social interaction in the community. Have you seen the community? The actual people than fill up Blighty?

    Buy a house with a big gate and make sure you lock yourself behind it. Only open it for Amazon, Ebay & Tesco deliveries.

  4. I'll bite. I'm afraid I'm one of the aforementioned bar rats. Barstool or not, unless I'm in a strange pub, I prefer standing at the bar and either chewing the fat with the staff and regulars or being antisocial and buggering about my phone depending on my mood.

    The group at the bar are not just a bunch of friends that can move to a table and sit down. It's a transient group, people come and go as the evening go on. Some might not even like each other but still engage in conversation. Hell, some might even talk to customers as they come up to the bar. They usually know more about the beers on offer than the barstaff.

    That being said, there's no excuse for bad manners. In the three pubs I regularly go in there's always a space left for the normal punters to get to the bar - usually in fron the of hand pumps. Most of us bar rats know that there's nothing worse than going into a pub and not being able to get to the bar.

    I've never really noticed this problem in Weatherspoons (possibly because I generally avoid them like the plague). At the two in Wrexham the only people hanging around the bar are non-regulars who have just nipped in for a very quick pint. All the regulars congregate around a couple of tables at the back, although they're rarely sitting down.

  5. You need to work on your consistency Cookie, one minute you're all for binge drinking and shagging orange lasses, the next you're doing this weird sociopath schtick.

  6. You do see this in Spoons which is annoying as they usually have a large bar which you would think would help. But no, they stand right in front of the pumps despite there being plenty of seats nearby.

  7. Whenever I have to push through a crowd at the bar to get served and then have my pint passed to me over their heads I get an almost irrepressible urge to 'accidentally' pour some beer down someone's neck.
    I don't, of course Beer is too expensive.

  8. @Tyson - and there's normally plenty of other bar length to stand at too. I think some people just get a kick out of being arsey.

    The objection isn't to people standing at the bar as such, but

    (a) blocking access for others to get served, and

    (b) in quieter/smaller pubs in effect dominating the place and possibly creating an unwelcoming first impression

  9. @Mudge, the world is full of rude people, ce la vie. Either tackle them, ignore them or become one of them. That's your pick.

  10. I think the recent change from a keg-only pub to one with half a dozen real ales to choose from may have not yet got through to the habitual bar-leaners in the Cocked Hat. Hopefully the penny will drop eventually.

  11. One of the defining characteristics of a pub is that you can go into it, stand/sit at the bar and talk to people who you didn't come in with, as jamesbwxm said the group of barflys is a transient group of locals who come and go and add a bit of atmosphere to a place. If everyone goes to ther bar orders their drink and then goes and sits down at a table then your not in a pub you're in a bar or a cafe that sells beer.

  12. Stanley Blenkinsop24 January 2014 at 13:53

    So let me this straight - you think people ought to have the right to smoke in pubs but not stand where they want ?

  13. Best thing to do is just go up to the nearest regular and say "two pints of carling and a packet of crisps please", then when they say "wtf mate?" you say, "well you're at the bar, you can order for me".

    Then kick him in the head.

  14. @py crikey mate, you wanna get your online persona sorted. One minute you're this nice middle class beer geek, next your fighting with the rozzers outside the kebab shop ;)

    @Stan yup ;)

  15. nothing mutually exclusive about appreciatin' craft beer and the fightin' with the pigs cookie. Its like rocket fuel those DIPAs.

  16. Always a sign that a few cages have been rattled when you get the odd-named contributors without Google or OpenID accounts chipping in ;-)

    py(0) is exempted from that as he is a regular, even though he is spectacularly wrong most of the time.

    Are you now definitely py rather than py0? And where does the moniker come from in the first place?

  17. I'm gradually reducing it, it will just be p next month. Conservation of finger movements.

    Talking of that, can you make your anti-robot tests a bit easier Mr Mudge? Sometimes it takes me 3 or 4 go's. The numbers are easier, I can usually read them.

  18. Out of my control, I'm afraid, old son. Word verification is either on or off. And if I turn it off I get a mountain of spam.

    Anyway, it stops people from commenting when pissed. Oh...

  19. "So let me this straight - you think people ought to have the right to smoke in pubs but not stand where they want?"

    People have the right to do plenty of things I find objectionable - that is a key definition of a free society. And I also have the right to complain about them.

    And I don't approve of people in pubs behaving in a boorish, selfish, obstructive manner. Do you?

  20. are you going to do a blogpost on how pubs are better than beer festivals? I agree with you. Nowhere to sit, queues for the loos, beer served too warm, nothing for the mrs to drink, and they never have the beers on I wanted to try anyway.

    Summer ones are ok if its a sunny day and you can sit on the grass. Other than that, I don't bother going.

  21. Barstools with backs, and swivel ones at that. Surely another unwelcome American import, even though I have, on the odd occasion, been guilty of using them myself.

    Btw, if you think it's bad here for people sitting at these things and hogging the bar, it's ten times worse in America. They also get very territorial over bar stools, in fact on my last visit my brother-in-law nearly got us involved in a bar brawl because someone pinched his stool when he went to the gents (sorry bathroom, or is it John?).

  22. But surely the US bars with rows of fixed barstools are basically set up for waiter service to the rest of the clientele?

    Many of the Carlisle State Management Scheme pubs seem to have been designed for waiter service only on the "best" side.

  23. "But surely the US bars with rows of fixed barstools are basically set up for waiter service to the rest of the clientele?".

    Some are, but not all. However, even when you're sat at the bar, the bartender still expects a tip just for pouring you a beer and placing it on the bar counter in front of you!

  24. Martin, Cambridge26 January 2014 at 10:49

    Don't mind people standing at the bar as long as they're courteous enough to stand back enough so I can see what's on the bar and collect a pint without spilling it; more irritated by bar stools literally blocking all access to the bar (particularly bad example in new Beer Guide entry in Romiley).


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