Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I have a dream

Boak & Bailey recently asked on Twitter if people had had any daydreams about setting up and running a pub that, presumably, fitted in with their own particular vision and ideals. Now, I’ve gone on record in the past about listing the features of my ideal pub, and if I was serious about doing it, it probably wouldn’t be too far away from that, although obviously one particular element would now be illegal. I also said that “I suspect you'd find you did all these worthy things and no bugger would turn up!” But sometimes, maybe when in a more mischievous mood, a rather different vision flickers through my brain. Let’s say I had a multi-million Lottery win (which I won’t, as I don’t do the Lottery). I’d buy a well-known, high-end gastro dining pub in a rural, village or small town location. I’d then close off much of the interior to reduce it to three smallish rooms – a main bar, a darts room and a cosy snug or parlour. These I would have done up in a pastiche of a late Victorian National Inventory pub, with ample bench seating and plenty of dark wood and etched glass, but no bar stools. It would be strictly over-18s only.

There would be no food, apart from crisps and nuts. Likewise, there would be no piped music, although I’d have a telly that was reserved for sporting events on free-to-air TV, especially the racing. The likely level of trade wouldn’t sustain many beers, so I’d probably just have Carling and one cask bitter, something like Thwaites Original or Weetwood Best. Draught Bass would be tempting, although probably that bit too strong. If there wasn’t enough turnover, it would have to go keg. Cider and Guinness drinkers would have to put up with cans or bottles.

Outdoor signage would be limited to a plain name-board and a sign displaying the hours. If the name had been changed to something trendy and pretentious, it would revert back to the original Railway or Red Lion. It would stick to the traditional opening hours of 11-3 and 5.30-11 Monday to Saturday, and 12-3 and 7-10.30 on Sundays. The exterior would have a general appearance of benign neglect. The whole intention would be to create somewhere that people would chance on and think “Wow, I didn’t know places like this still existed”.

As it wouldn’t, realistically, be a commercial venture, I’d have to employ a manager rather than a tenant. The job wouldn’t be a particularly onerous one, so it could be taken on by someone semi-retired who was looking to write their Great Novel. They would have to look after a pub cat, though, and keep a coal fire burning in the winter.

It might prove to be surprisingly popular, as I think there’s some life in the old-fashioned drink-and-chat pub still. On the other hand, possibly it would have absolutely zero customers. But I wouldn’t care.


  1. The Blocked Dwarf21 February 2017 at 15:40

    If I won squillions of quid on the Euro Lottery -which I play religiously (Yes I know it's a Tax On Stupidity but if I didn't play and my numbers came up I'd have to top myself)- I have always envisaged buying a former shop or pub, getting a 'change of use' to a private residence and then running it as a free 'pub'. I'd only offer one sort of beer, shipped in from Europe on principle ( I will not support the yUKdotgove nor the quislings at Big Brewski UK) and no spirits -however people could bring a bottle. Anyone would be welcome to wander in and drink and smoke, at no cost. There would be a pack of European tobacco and cigs on every table. I'd try for somewhere central so all could see the happy smiley people not keeling over from the 2nd hand smoke. I'd also employ a top flight lawyer to make sure we circumvented all the Health Nazi dictates of the council. The world's best 'Smokey Drinky'.
    There is as yet , although no doubt soon, any law to forbid me inviting friends into my home for a smoke and a drink...at my cost and who says I have to have curtains?

  2. Brilliant. My idea too. Free cigarettes and tobacco for every customer. One really good ale / cider/ German lager.All free and entry to smoking friends only.

    1. The Blocked Dwarf21 February 2017 at 15:59

      Thinking on it a bit more, if i were to acquire an old pub then there would be space enough to 'rent' out the upstairs free to a smoking 'barman' and his 'Ange'. He, the barman, would also be a competent brewer who could use the outhouses to brew the free beer/real ale. Ange would also perhaps do a wicked Bacon sarni for the morning guests and there'd be coffee too.

  3. Brilliant. My idea too. Free cigarettes and tobacco for every customer. One really good ale / cider/ German lager.All free and entry to smoking friends only.

  4. Of course, if trade was slack on a Sunday night, this hypothetical pub could always have a smoking lock-in ;-)

  5. You don't need to win the lottery.You're well wedged. Do it regardless.

    If you remember an 80's TV show called the Beiderbecke Affair the main male protagonist takes the main female protagonist out to a pub where there is a Jazz night on. Only liking the bitter on the 2nd pint he talks to the guy running it to discover it's not making any money but the organiser doesn't much care as it's his redundancy money and that's his dream whilst it lasts.

    1. As always, you greatly overestimate my means. Why do you think I dress in 70s clothing, drink in Sam's pubs and shop at Home Bargains?

    2. The Blocked Dwarf21 February 2017 at 18:12

      "shop at Home Bargains"

      You've never pulled into Lidl or Aldi to find your car is the oldest , tattiest there by far?
      And why did this site just eat my Beiderbecke comment?

    3. I'd say Aldi and Lidl appeal much more to the savvy middle-class consumer than to the genuine working class. No idea about your Beiderbecke comment, not in either pending or spam.

    4. I'd convert the high-end gastropub into a DSS hostel but keep the pub bit, mainly to serve the residents but also as a public bar - Serving no draught beer at all, the only drink available would be those 9% Polish cans (kaparkie?) at £1 each - There'd also be a sharps bin in the toilets and complimentary tinfoil available from behind the bar.

    5. The well wedged shop in Lidl. That's how they stay wedged. You don't stay loaded by spending it. Only the nouveau riche shop in Waitrose. Those with a too clean 4x4, brand new wax jacket what bought there own furniture.

      40 year old range rover. Patches on the wax jacket. That'll be the heir to the throne parked up and filling the boot with cut price cognac.

    6. The Blocked Dwarf22 February 2017 at 09:58

      @kevin webster, do I detect a hint, just a hint of sarcasm in your comment? Actually I like your idea -except for the drugs bit. I have always said that if I won more than just a few measly £millions I would buy high and low end properties to rent out. Only smokers would be accepted (or in the case of couples, one partner a smoker) and DSS would be given preference because they suffer the most from the persecution of smokers. If they happen to be Poles or other EU Citizens so much the better.

    7. No, that is what I'd do. I forgot to mention EU citizens though, so ta for reminding me - Yep there'd be a sizeable Romanian contingent for sure.

  6. Can we have pork scratchings as well as crisps and nuts please.

    1. That's taken as read within the category. Plus those little Ploughman's Lunch kits in a plastic bag :-)

    2. The Blocked Dwarf21 February 2017 at 19:03

      "As long as yow s'ock Spicy Nik Naks 'hy will navver lack for cus'omers, boor"

      -at least that seems to be the prevailing wisdom round here (Norfolk).

    3. I'd have thought you would have pies and possibly barm cakes brought in on Fridays.

  7. I would love if i had the money to open lots of the closed estate pubs in the Nottingham area,keep them as they was but put a couple of real ales back on the bar liked they used to have in the 80s,Harvest Pale and more mainstream beer,no food but large cobs on the bar with a mix of fillings,lost of TVs of course to show the football or rugby and a pool table and if room a table skittles table.

  8. Professor Pie-Tin21 February 2017 at 19:22

    It would have to be somewhere rural.Preferably hilly to dissuade the riff-raff but no beer garden or good access road so as not to encourage families.
    No tellies or music of any kind.
    Radio Four on permanently.Except for the cricket when it would be Test Match Special.
    A selection of good,old-fashioned ales and strong cider all poured straight from the barrel.
    A pub dog slumbering in front of a real fire going most of the year.
    All mobiles on mute.A ban-able offence after the first warning.
    Twiglets. There has to be Twiglets. And pickled eggs.But no other food.None whatsoever.You come here to drink and talk bollocks not eat.Although cubed cheddar and Carr's Water Biscuits with some chutney will be provided for the Sunday lunchtime session.The vicar,a rotund and jovial fellow,will be peckish after his sermon.
    A real clock that makes ticking noises and chimes hourly.
    If there was the chance of a Spitfire doing a barrel-roll overhead and the pilot popping over later in his MGBGT for a swift half that would be a bonus.
    All talk of religion,football,golf,women and holidays to be banned and everything else has to be upbeat.I would have the right to fine anyone a pound for being unnecessarily begrudging or pessimistic with the money accrued at year-end to pay for presents for the local hospital children's ward - well I'm not a complete bastard.
    Opening hours of 4-10pm weekdays and 6-12pm at weekends as well as 12-3 on Sunday for the vicar's convenience.
    A charabanc outing every summer to a beer festival.Men only.Sorry ladies but deep down that's really how we feel.
    The ladies,of course,will be entitled to a night out whenever Matt Monroe is appearing in the vicinity.If it's further away then making a weekend of it would be perfectly acceptable.
    There will be a wooden stool at the end of the bar below a simple plaque reading " Reserved for Nigel Farage who occasionally pops in when campaigning in the area."
    Outside will be a heated smoking area,covered on all four sides and with a roof.There will be old but comfortable settees,some big heavy china ashtrays and views down the distance valleys dotted with whisps early evening fog.
    Any approaching car will be clearly visibly and if not recognised a simple button will operate the necessary mechanics to convert the smoking area into a legal format.
    All faiths,creeds and colours will be welcome.Even Guardian readers.At a push.
    As you approach the pub,thatched naturally,you'll notice a warm welcoming light inside and smell the log fire first.
    Pushing open the heavy oak door there'll be a temporary,barely noticeable lull in the hubbub of conversation - just a beat - before it picks up again and within moments you'll be grasping a foaming pint and enjoying the hospitality.
    And then of course the alarm will wake you and it's time to get up for work.
    Another week without winning the lottery.

  9. Your opening hours are a bit iffy and the ladies will be disappointed on account of Matt Munro died in 1985. Apart from that, it sounds perfect.

    1. Professor Pie-Tin22 February 2017 at 09:52

      I was hoping to be a tad ironic ! A much underestimated crooner - history hasn't been kind to him.
      The opening hours are to suit me,of course,but as a former pub owner I would say the hours after 10pm during the week and daytime opening is just not worth the effort in a rural location unless you're doing grub.
      And most people drinking after midnight are usually pissed and a pain in the hole.

  10. In the disappointing real world which pub is the closest approximation for you. I'd go for the Duke of York at Elton if it had proper hours.

    1. Traveller's Rest at Alpraham in Cheshire or Red Lion at Dayhills in Staffordshire. Again both need proper hours. And they don't have the impression of faded grandeur which I'd be aiming for.

  11. Here in West Cornwall we have two pubs which come close to the ideal, the Blue Anchor in Helston (home of Spingo) and the Seven Stars in Falmouth (the perfect pint of Bass). And for an away day, the Dolphin in Plymouth.

  12. It's interesting that all of these lottery fantasies involve, to a great or lesser degree, cocking a snook at the established norms of society.

    1. The Blocked Dwarf22 February 2017 at 14:38

      "cocking a snook at the established norms of society."

      Only to be expected from those whom society has (or seeks to in the case of drinkers) 'denormalize'. I doubt any drinker now thinks the Angel of Public health will pass over him. The anti-alcohol campaigns have said quite openly that they are going to follow the Tobacco Control Industry's playbook. Wet led pubs will be all but extinct soon enough.

  13. " It might prove to be surprisingly popular as I think there's still some life in the old-fashioned drink- and - chat-pub still."
    Yes,they're now called Micro Pubs.


Comments, especially on older posts, may be subject to prior approval. Bear with me – I may be in the pub.

Please be polite and remember to play the ball, not the man.

Any obvious trolling, offensive or blatantly off-topic comments will be deleted.

See this post for some thoughts on my approach to blog comments. The comment facility is not provided as a platform for personal attacks on the blog author.