Archive for the 'YamYamBlogs' Category

The Pub Lifecycle

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Some thing I’ve remarked upon with friends but not really covered here before now is the seemingly cyclical nature of some pubs; Andy has mentioned it in a number of posts, and we’ve probably caught pubs at different stages of the cycle during 100pubs.

What’s prompted this post is one of my local pubs, seemingly on the rise about 2 years ago, has seemingly quickly declined and is heading for the bottom of the curve. I won’t name it.

The cycle seems to go like this:

New landlord/owner –> investment/refurb –> interest in the business –> good beer –> increased custom –> better pub.

There may be food involved, though it’s optional (I’ll return to this).

Then the landlord or the pubco lose interest.

pub gets tatty –> fewer customers –> beer quality down –> takings down –> possible closure/landlord leaves.

Some pubs survive at this low point: if you’ve got an established trade of less fussy customers who drink a basic lager such as Carling or Fosters or a keg bitter like John Smiths that doesn’t go off quickly, there’s money to be made. I’d also like to point out that only serving such beer isn’t neccesarily a sign of a poor pub- I can think of sveral fairly decent pubs with no cask ale near here- but here’s a list othings I’d consider warning signs:

1. Cask ale declines in quality or disappears.
2. “Premium” lager disappears.
3. Wine disappears.
4. Food, if it was served, disappears.
5. Basic maintenance/cleanliness disappears. The toilets are usually the worst thing…
6. Choice of the more basic beer/cider reduces.

Once you get to 6, that’s usually trouble. The locals start to abondon the place, so the money dries up, and this is exactly where we seem to be in this case, and the other local pubs (Walsall Wood being blessed with several) are gaining custom, and raising their game accordingly: one one occaision I’ve left the pub in question due to the poor beer choice, only to see 6-8 customers that left before me in another one nearby.

I know that it’s harder to run a pub these days, and the closures have complex and varied causes, but there’s still oney to be made running a pub, and around 12-18 months ago, this pub was very busy indeed: Walsall Wood isn’t a huge place, but there’s plenty of drinkers about willing to be seperated from their money if you do it even half right, and decent beer, decent wine, and bogs that are at least tolerably sanitary would be a good starting point on the way to a perfect pub. Food can spoil pubs done wrongly, but well done it can boost takings and footfall withoout spoiling atmosphere.

What I don’t understand is that I’ve seen all of the local pubs go through this cycle at least once in the last 20 years (and one of them manage it 3 times, at least). There’sobviously potential to succeed, as they do when a new landlord arrives, but why the rapid cycling when some pubs remain stable for decades?

A Noise Annoys

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Last night, I was a little later home than other days, and my dear other half suggested a visit to the pub for tea (for those of you of a posh or southern disposition, that’s the evening meal). I was, actually, very slightly reluctant, as I usually don’t drink alcohol in the week, but only for a short while: the idea of a sit with a pint while someone else cooks my food seems like a great idea, so off we went.

When we arrived, there was another group (of 3) in there. The pub was pretty quiet; that early-doors feeling of wind-down. In love pubs at this time, or on Sunday evenings: quiet, relaxing, peaceful. The pub is one that does good business with food, but it is still very much a pub, not a restaurant.

I was a little disturbed, but not too much, at the request to turn the TV on. After all, part of being in a PUBlic house is that it is shared space; and a bit of news or maybe, if you really, really must, some sport doesn’t seem inappropriate, even if not my choice.

This dismay worsened when the TV was put on to The Box, and some dreadful bollocks that I believe calls itself R&B these days was on, and not quietly. Some tracks sounded faintly like someone rapping over a car alarm. Dismay turned to disbelief when the party that asked for it then ignored it, and started playing videos on their smartphones- with sound (which alone should be a punishable crime). The result turned the formerly peaceful pub into a cacophony of noise: something you’d maybe expect on a Friday or Saturday night in a town centre pub frequented by the under 25s, but less in a community pub in Walsall Wood early on a Tuesday evening, and more importantly, a cacophony of noise that the instigators were largely ignoring.

Oddly, while I was halfway through writing this, Pub Curmudgeon came up with this post discussing a “real pub” guide, featuring

those dismal dumps where the only sound is the ticking of the clock and the plaintive miaowing of the pub cat.

[Quote from Cooking Lager]

while a pub trade website detailed a bar that has installed a Faraday cage to effectively disable mobile phones, and of course, we’ve discussed this before.

I can’t agree with the mobile phone blocker, or indeed a mobile phone ban: it is not unusual to find me surfing the web on a phone in a pub- but If I *really must* use sound, I’ll have headphones on, and I go outside if I need to take or make a call: it’s just good manners. I’m not entirely against music in pubs either- one of my favourites regularly has a band on, and at other times tends to have the radio on, but notably the band plays in one of two rooms, and the radio is loud enough to talk over (and Radio 6, so while not my first choice, at least it sounds like music), though at times it’s cursed with bastards standing or sitting at the bar.

Here’s my point: as asked in Andy’s post linked above and discussed here, how much of the noise in pubs is wanted? I’d personally love to see no TVs in pubs, and the quote above sounds perfect. Perhaps we need a return to multi-room pubs, as I can think of one or two like that round here that can accomodate the music or sport and still allow miserable twats like me a quiet pint.

Taphouse 6: The Park Inn

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Brewery Site

Taphouse 6, again with a brewery actually onsite- Holdens.

The Park Inn, with added Pete.

The Park Inn, with added Pete.

I was less enthusiastic than my last visit (but then, I was suffering with a worsening hangover), and we all agreed that while there was nothing wrong, it missed something. Pleasant enough, though.

Ambience 7.3
Beer choice/quality 8.6
Architecture 6
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 7
Toilets 6

Which means an overall score of 6.98.

Taphouse 5: The Beacon Hotel

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Twitter

Taphouse 5, with a brewery actually onsite- Sarah Hughes.

Beacon Hotel. Image from Google.

Beacon Hotel. Image from Google.

More details in the PubBlog post. It’s still as good as ever, 3 years later.

Ambience 10
Beer choice/quality 8.3
Architecture 9
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 10
Toilets 6

Which means an overall score of 8.66, which I think makes it the leader so far.

Beyond the Northern Wastes

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

In the over 20 years I’ve lived in Walsall Wood, near to the 39x (previously)/10/10A (now) bus route, I’ve probably only caught the bus northwards towards Brownhills a handful of times, heading instead towards the bright lights of Walsall, and even on those occaisions, I’ve never strayed north of the A5, because “here there be dragons”, obviously.

It was about time for a change. The happy realisation that the evening service is every 30 minutes or so for its full length from Walsall, through Walsall Wood and Brownhills, into Chasetown and Burntwood, and back, means that a whole raft of new pubs are within reach, so off we went. It’s been a while since we had a bus-based pub crawl.

A short trip to the Swan Island saw us outside The White Swan, which was closed, so we continued to The Nags Head, pausing there for a drink en route to The Drill Inn for food. After a walk back, The White Swan was open, so a swift one in there, and as the bus passes right by and stops very near, one at The Junction, before returning safely back south of the border.

A Personal Win

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

I’m writing this on the eve of the EU referendum. I’m steering well, well away from the politics here, because, frankly, politics, with its byzantine obfuscation leaves me cold. My own views on the topic, and my political leanings, are no secret, but that’s not why I’m here, and I’d like to point out now that any comments attempting to argue the politics or economics, or indeed gloat on the outcome of tomorrow’s vote will be deleted.

Even if I agree with them.

I’d just like to share one small personal bit of gain; a small detail that made life easier for me. The new car means new winter tyres (and yes, I’m aware it is summer- prices will seriously climb from September), and indeed, new wheels, to avoid the problems of using non-approved wheels.

Germany, as I’ve remarked, has strict winter tyre laws, so in Germany it is commonplace to have a winter set of wheels. I’ve ended up with a used, but practically immaculate set of the official VW winter wheels, with a set of quality, little used (Pirelli SottoZero) winter tyres at well below half the price of new ones. From Germany. Direct, with no import duty, no mucking about at customs, and besides having to use Google translate, no more hassle than buying in the UK- the wheels arrived today, just in time :-), by courier, well packed, and exactly as described, within a few days. The alternatives were steel wheels, or secondhand wheels in the UK with tyres I didn’t want, and in need of a refurb.

I feel duty-bound to mention at this point the warnings from the AA and tyre sellers about part-worn tyres, and then point out that I’ve just bought one set- attached to the car, as does anyone buying a secondhand car- and that these are both little-used (with 6mm of tread), and free from any of the scars you get from a careless driver- no scuffs, cuts or other damage, and on wheels that are similarly undamaged. I’d also comment that for those of you on a very tight budget, the cheapest new tyres can be ditchfinders.

Industrial Alcohol

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

I was, unusually, at a bit of a loose end this afternoon, with my other half out, and no urgent tasks to fulfill, so, having already been up to purchase bottled beer, I popped up (by bus) to the ever-lovely Backyard Brewhouse to see their bar in action.

This doesn’t count as a taphouse tour visit, as I went alone- the rules demanding 3 participants- and anyway, arguably, we’ve done Backyard’s taphouse, though that will probably be a point for debate.

Lets get this straight: it’s an industrial unit, on an industrial estate, but with predictably brilliant beer, and a relaxed atmosphere in the sunshine, and a welcome from those nice people that run it, I can think of many worse ways to spend a few hours, and it’s a great idea. Set up a bar, get a few reclaimed-from-a pub tables and chairs, and serve great beer.

Taphouse 4: The Gunmaker’s Arms

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Pub Website

Taphouse 4, this time it’s Two Towers‘ taphouse.

The Gunmaker's Arms

The Gunmaker’s Arms

More details in the PubBlog post.

Ambience 7.5
Beer choice/quality 6.3
Architecture 6.83
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 6.58
Toilets 5.5

Which means an overall score of 6.542

Police State?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

I was both intrigued, pleased, and disturbed in equal measure by this post from the blog of West Midlands Police Traffic. I have to say, there’s a lot to agree with: the car “cruising” culture has been a local problem, and there’s a lot of illegal activity going on related to it: illegal, unroadworthy mods, poor driving, racing, insurance offences. Rich pickings for traffic police, and rightly so.

The bit that disturbs me is this:

Not all attend to race, some attend just to watch, but both are just as guilty, after all those who do race just crave attention, no audience would mean no racing and no anti-social behaviour, you get the idea. If you turn up to watch you are part of the problem, expect to be treated as such.

Which, while I take the point about antisocial behaviour, seems a tiny bit thin end of the wedge to me. as

Although the tag “boy racer” is a favoured term of the majority for the offenders who attend, many are older, many are female, some with families, good jobs, responsibilities and normal lifestyles away from this offending, that they portray as a hobby or interest. The trouble is when they attend they quickly forget their responsibility to the wider community, a selfish desire to get cheap adrenaline fuelled kicks takes priority over everyone else’s safety and wellbeing, and as such the response to a problem we have to put an end to is harsh, as you will see.

suggests one could be targeted simply for having a modified (or maybe even just slightly flash) car in the wrong place at the wrong time, which feels a bit wrong to me. If you’re not breaking the law, obviously, you should be safe:

And for those who have declared everything and are fully legal insurance wise, and are not racing trialling or being anti-social but have just turned up to “make up the numbers” we will always fall back to our “bread and butter” traffic skills, an altered exhaust or silencer will cost you £100 fine, number plate offences the same, lighting faults £50 an offence, the list is endless, be part of the problem and expect to be treated in a zero tolerance fashion. And if you read the details of the injunctions being granted to prevent cruising, your behaviour can cause a breach of the injunction far more easily than the manner of your driving.

Though I’d suggest an altered exhaust won’t attract a fine if it meets all relevant regulations (for noise, and no cat removal if the cat is a legal requirement) and is declared to your insurers.

On the other hand, I agree completely that if people want to gather in large numbers and race, and show off modified cars, then there’s places to do that where you’ll be with other enthusiasts, and not annoy or endanger the general public, I’m just a little uncomfortable with someone being placed on:

Operation Hercules ANPR hotlist

potentially without breaking the law. What if you happen to be driving past in (say) a modified Golf R32, following the rules of the road, and get ANPRd onto that list by someone who thinks you’re part of the crowd? Will you ever get off it, or will you be pulled over every 10 miles for the rest of your life?

A long, slow death…

Friday, April 15th, 2016

..and a very welcome one.

The Telegraph is reporting that Phorm, everyone’s favourite privacy-invading, ad-serving shitfest has finally died. If you don’t remember it, there’s some old posts here:

Phorm Dumped

Moron Phorm

A Phorm of Intrusion

Sadly, some of the links don’t work anymore, as it seems even if I now post infrequently, I am at least here for the log run, unlike some other blogs…

Hell, their comms team seemed nice, back in 2008. Now where did I put the words tiniest violin?


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