Archive for the 'Pubs' Category

Pub Closures

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

I’ve been (again) thinking of pub closures lately; this has mostly been prompted by the reports from Andy that the Pyle Cock is to close next year (as reported here) and picked up by WV11 here. The Pyle Cock has long been one of my favourite pubs, one that I don’t visit enough, because it’s 2 bus rides away.

There’s an interesting post here (and the comments are worth a read too) from The Pub Curmudgeon. My view don’t entirely align with his (or the linked report) (he’s of the view that the smoking ban has had a large effect, and the linked article dismisses PubCo behaviour to some degree), but it does make the point that pub closures are a complex matter: it is not just beer pricing (via taxation), competition (from supermarkets) or the smoking ban: all of these factors have a role to play, as does social change- as the comments point out, increased car commuting (and greater distances to commute), and a change in working patterns also play a part. It’s noticeable in large cities with more people travelling by public transport, pubs continue to thrive, but again, it’s not that simple.

Good pubs thrive, and taking the Pyle Cock as an example, it’s difficult to see why it is closing: it was for sale for a time, and has now been sold to a developer. That suggests a PubCo taking the option to cash in on real estate, but anecdotal reports suggest the pub was not busy in general, though the current landlord has been given notice, rather than quitting himself, it would seem, so perhaps it was making *enough* money: the beer was always good and the atmosphere was fantastic, old traditional pub.

Oddly, just up the road, the ever lovely Vine
is thriving and busy, with a new, young landlord and fantastic beer, and I’m told the nearby Dog and Partridge is fine too. It’s hard to see, though, what is so very different that makes the Pyle Cock unsustainable. It remains a fact that good pubs, even those not serving food can do well, and I’ve recently been in a very traditional backstreet pub with no real ale or food that seemed to be very busy (including with smokers, outside on a cold day), which makes me wonder exactly what the factors are that close pubs?

Golden Opportunity

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I wasn’t at work last week, but the weather put paid to most of the outdoor tasks, as while it wasn’t universally wet, things were too changeable to commit to much. When a friend mentioned that she wanted to sell some gold, but wanted company (was I a bodyguard? maybe), it seemed like a pleasant diversion: The Jewellery Quarter has nice architecture, and decent pubs (more of the pubs later). I wanted to suggest CatsforGold
, but didn’t feel I’d get taken seriously.

We’d arranged to meet by the Chamberlain Clock, but I had something magnificent, but sad to look in on first, on my walk past Snow Hill:

The Gothic

What was The Gothic pub in Great Hampton Row, Birmingham

The Gothic was built around 1869-1870. It closed in 1991, and seems to have been rotting since: two of the nice gables have gone (see the c1950 photo here and another here), nasty modern shopfittings have been added, and the roof looks very dodgy in places. Thus is despite it being Grade II listed since 1982, though I suppose we should be grateful the arson contractors haven’t moved south from Walsall.

Anyway, onwards. We met up, and commenced the tour of the gold dealers: let this be a warning: prices varied by at least 10%, and this was not insignificant given the value in this case. After a tour of 5 or 6, we settled on one place, sold the gold, and got the bulk of the cash paid in to Barclays, handily back by the clock, and just in view of the lovely Warstone Lane Cemetery lodge:

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image's page.

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image’s page.

Now the nice bit: as a reward for standing about looking large, lunch, with some of the proceeds. A walk round the corner back onto Great Hampton St, passing the Rose Villa Tavern and the Jewellers Arms and on to The Lord Clifden
which turned out nicer than expected.

Walsall Beer Festival 2013

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

As is traditional, I went to Walsall Beer Festival. Unusually, I went in the day on Saturday, hoping to avoid some of the beers running out, and have it not so busy.

It worked, to some degree, but there were still a few notable beers that had run out: Backyard Brewhouse‘s Chinook IPA had gone, so we had to take a post-festival visit to The Fountain for that (well worth the trip). In all we found 5 or 6 beers no longer available: it seems everyone likes the same sort of beer (pale, hoppy ales and IPAs) as us.

Beyond that, it was great. There was still a good choice of great beer, decent food on offer from the town hall restaurant, and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, so a big thanks and kudos to Walsall CAMRA for a great job. My one slight complaint? More seats required- us poor middle-aged types with kanckered legs and backs can’t stand for long. We did find seats, but they were in short supply.

Next year, I reckon, it’ll have to be a day off and visit on Thursday afternoon.

The Fountain Reopens

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

It’s worth mentioning that a much loved Walsall pub, The Fountain has re-opened (yesterday), after being closed in August, and amazingly not catching fire.

Local brewery and nice chaps The Backyard Brewhouse have bought the pub. I’ve not visited yet, but when I do, it will get a PubBlog revisit entry. It’s nice to see another good local pub re-opened, since The Swan has done so well.

Work on the Avion- continued

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Work is progressing on the Avion. The section that appeared to be getting demolished actually seems to be mostly retained, there’s a new roof in progress (rather than what looked like asbestos sheets), and some impressive windows at the rear, presumably where the original screen was, so a similar treatment to The Imperial, where it works quite well. It surely can’t be long until the building will be watertight again.

Rear of the Avion

Rear of the Avion cinema, 26-June-2012. New roof under construction, and new glass. Click for bigger version.

Work on the Avion

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Looks like the visit to the Avion by some urbexers was well-timed: over the Easter break my bother-in-law emailed me:

Just thought I’d let you know that they’re demolishing it ……we went to Morrisons today & the back half has already gone.

I’m pleased to say that it’s not actually being demolished, or at least not all of it: the planning documents (PDF, 80kB) on Walsall MBC’s site don’t go into detail (and I can’t find anything more detailed), but they do say:

Part demolition and alterations and change of use to Class A4 (drinking establishment) with external seating area, extension of adjacent car park, new boundary fences and pedestrian access.

which pretty much confirms the Wetherspoons story.

They’re not mucking about though: I called in at Morrisons on Monday, and you get a good view at what’s going on, and they’re demolishing a good part of the large auditorium behind. At least there’s nothing architecturely significant about it- pretty basic 1930s construction, brick, steel girders, and a sheet roof.

Avion Cinema from Morrisons car park, 23/4/2012

From the side, it’s clear how much has been demolished:

From one side. 23/4/2012

What I’m not sure about is how much is going to be demolished, or how much is original: it’s a big old shed of a building, so clearly they won’t need all of it. Can’t help but think that the top of the frontage, on the other side, would make a nice roof terrace…

Cross Purposes

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

I first got the heads-up from a neighbour, but this was also featured in the Express and Star tonight, though not online. I’ll try to scan the page.

There’s plans afoot for the Four Crosses, one of my favourite pubs, and now the only pub in Shelfield, as the Spring Cottage is (still) undergoing conversion to a Co-op store.

It’s an odd one. Unlike most planning applications involving pubs these days, the pub is to stay, but it’s beer garden, car park, and surrounding land is to be taken over by a care home, which will spread into the first floor of the pub, with the pub business continuing below. A very odd arrangment.

picture of plans

Planned elevations for the site: Click for bigger, see link below for PDF original.

There’s full details on Walsall MBC’s fairly ropey planning site: I can’t easily link the application as a page, so here’s the most interesting documents. For the full application, go to here and search for 12/0221/FL.

Design and Access Statement (PDF, 4.4MB)

Elevations (1) (PDF, 3.6MB)

Elelvations (2) (PDF, 3.8MB)

Ground Floor Plan (inc Garden/Car Park) (PDF, 800KB)

There’s a few things I don’t like here: I’m not keen on the new building for a start, and it clashes somewhat with the nice old pub, and I also rather like a pint in the beer garden, but more of a concern is that the care home will apparently create 40 jobs, but the new car park will have only 17 car spaces (less than currently!) despite having to support the pub and the care home. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of pub many drive to, but a 30-bed home with 40 potential staff (who admittedly won’t all work at the same time) and a pub having 17 parking spaces, when the surrounding roads are either unsuitable to park in or already crowded by residents? Seems like a bad idea, despite what the Transport Statement says (PDF, 1.3MB). I also wonder where all the pub customers will smoke…

The only thing in favour is that the pub will get a bit of a refurb, and the owners will make some money, which might be the difference between closing and not, but it just seems so odd, and just doesn’t quite fit: I’d be concerned that the pub would get swallowed up. Still, I suppose better it stays standing?

Like I say, an odd one. Anyone have any comments?

Not worth it

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Today, we had a bit of a walk out: a bus to Walsall, and a walk to Park Hall to visit the King Arthur, and then a walk up Sutton Rd and over the Beacon to the Foley Arms, where the plan was to get a 56 bus back home.

Here, we hit on a problem. We didn’t know the bus times. No problem, I have my antique Nokia phone with me, and call up an online bus timetable. It’s around 5:30pm, and the next bus is allegedly 7:33pm. This cannot be right, so I call the Centro hotline, where the nice lady tells me that she is only allowed access to the evening service- the ones subsidised by Centro (and therefore the same one I’ve just seen online)- and not the daytime schedule, but gives me Diamond Bus‘s phone number (which just rings). I take a look at their site, but the timetable is not fully viewable on my antique phone (the scrollbars do not appear).

So, to summarise:

We have a public body who uses Network West Midlands branding and has in the past used TV adverts with that branding, whose remit is:

(to) put(s) that policy into action, developing and promoting public transport services for people and encouraging their use.

but doesn’t have access to timetables, and a private bus company who receives subsidy from said public body, but provides no access to their timetable, unless you have access to their website via a modern browser.

How does this represent a joined up network, a sensible way to operate a public service? Think about it: why does everyone go everwhere by car? Could it be because public transport is disjointed, scattered, and not a service in the real sense of the word?

As it was, we had another couple of drinks and some food, but we weren’t in a hurry and can afford to do that. This is just not good enough.

The cost of a pub

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Picked this article up via Twatter (thanks @sussexbrews). I’ve speculated here before about pub closures, costs, and landlords making money without stiffing us too much for the price of a pint. We’ve discussed it both here and over at Come the Revolution more than once. Brownhills Bob has documented pubs closing and opening, and we’ve all seen more close than open: I stand by what I’ve said before: Real Ale is the saviour of the British pub these days, and the only way, it seems, to make money is either do a spoons (or similar) or to open a free house like The Swan or the Lazy Hill, free of the drain of a pubco.

We all hate the fact that we’re now typically paying £2.70-£3.10 for a pint, but publicans have to make money: I overheard one locally saying he could no longer sell Wife Beater because he couldn’t buy it at a price his customers would pay. Needless to say, this was a (very nice, well run) tied house….

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