Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Death of an English Pub

I went out for a beer with Matthew Applegate this evening. We do this quite often, discussing future events at Barrington Court and just having a good chuckle or two. Tonight was going to be one of our usual evenings, but turned out a bit different. We were due to meet at our usual pub, the delightful Duke of York in Shepton Beauchamp but when we arrived there the car park was full to bursting and the place was packed. So I drove us both over to East Lambrook and the Rose and Crown there. This is a very "nice" pub, all dining facilities and expensive beer. But it was generally quite busy. I managed to inflame the wrath of the landlady when I asked for the sparkler to be taken off the beer pump. (Sparklers are put on to real ale beer taps to force air into the beer and give it a foaming head - but it also makes the beer go like that execrable John Smith's Smooth Flow crap, so beloved of Northern Beer drinkers. I wanted a pint of beer, not something I could wash my socks in). Apparently me asking her to take the sparkler off the beer tap appeared to be the social equivalent of me leaning over the counter, slipping a £20 note down her bra and asking her for a lap dance. She started to lecture us about beer and the pub trade, and went on and on and on. This woman barely paused for breath. Eventually after a couple of beers we'd had enough and we headed back to the car. This time we went to the Royal Oak at Barrington. What a sad sight. This is a pub that is dying, slowly and obviously. Punch, the group that owns the pub, are trying to sell it and there is a big over-bearing "FOR SALE" sign on the outside. There is a temporary manager in the place, running it for the owners. When Matthew and I got in there, there were two men having a pint in the main bar, two lads playing pool out the back, plus us two. And that was it. Both the other pubs we had seen that evening (and all in the locality) were very busy, but the Oak was like the Marie Celeste. The two men having pints finished and were gone, and the lads playing pool followed soon afterwards. Before 10pm Matt and I were the only people in the place. Now the Oak could be a fabulous pub - Barrington is a beautiful chocolate box English thatched cottage village with the added attraction of Barrington Court being in the middle of it. But the Oak just doesn't seem to work - it has attracted a bad reputation, and in the pub business that is very difficult to lose. What would be ideal is a consortium of local people to club together and buy out the pub and run it properly as a good old fashioned local public house. Are there any takers out there to help save a small part of our English heritage? It would be nice if there was.

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