Sunday, 11 May 2014

Barons Bar defies owners' repeated death wish

I wrote in December how the Barons Bar in the Scarisbrick Hotel on Southport's Lord Street seemed to be bent on alienating drinkers with their introduction of plastic glasses. My proposal to the local CAMRA branch that we threaten the hotel with removal from the Good Beer Guide if they didn't reinstate real glasses was passed unanimously, but was subsequently overturned after a sustained e-mail campaign by a few who hadn't been at the meeting. Obviously the word "Campaign" in CAMRA's name has passed these e-mail lobbyists by, a couple of whom asserted that they had no problem with plastic glasses; that's up to them of course. Despite this defence of plastic, sales in the Barons Bar plummeted to the extent that in March real glasses returned, so I feel somewhat vindicated, although disappointed that the branch lost its nerve. Plastic glasses have their place, for example at open air events, but not for everyday use in pubs. I had e-mailed the company to state why I thought they were making a mistake, but received a bland 'thank you' for contacting them, an assurance that my views were valued, and a statement that this was now their policy and they were sticking to it.

Scarisbrick Hotel Southport
A view of the Barons Bar
It's not the first time that corporate decisions by Britannia Hotels, who took over this formerly independent hotel around three years ago, have nearly destroyed the Barons Bar. When they acquired the hotel, they told the bar manager to order real ale through their regular supplier, rather than shopping around for an interesting range of beers, as had happened previously. The result was a boring range of the usual suspects such as you can find anywhere and sales predictably went through the floor - well, I predicted it even if no one else did. Britannia demanded to know what had gone wrong with the sales, and when told why, they reluctantly to give the bar manager more freedom.

To me this is just further proof that corporate businesses are often not very good at business with their 'one size fits all' approach. The Barons Bar has managed to survive, and the beer recently was fine, but it is no thanks to the owners. I hope it recovers from this latest unwitting attempt to kill off its real ale sales, but I wouldn't be surprised if the accountants in head office are dreaming up more silly schemes that will have disastrous unintended consequences again.

I know this is late news, but this is the first chance I've had (due to computer problems) to write a follow up to my December post which was rather doom and gloom. I think it's worth mentioning the good news that Britannia saw sense unexpectedly - well, I certainly wasn't expecting it.


  1. Obviously it is hard to determine from what you write what happened behind the scenes in your branch, but frankly it is appalling if such a sensible stance was overturned by those that can't be bothered to turn up and discuss it.

    We forget the "campaign" bit about CAMRA at our peril.

  2. I think the arm-chair activists are becoming much more prevalent; after all it's a whole lot easier to fire off an email, than it is getting off your backside and attend a branch meeting!

    A year or so ago our branch suffered from a campaign of sniping on Twitter, and also Untapped, about our GBG selections, support for certain pubs and a branch social at a local beer festival. Apparently our attendance was endorsing poor quality beer.

    The best way to deal with these sad individuals is to call their bluff and ask them what they would do instead? When it comes to actually rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in with organising socials, beer festivals, brewery visits etc, most of them run a mile.

  3. Was in Baron's a few weeks ago. Thankfully got beer in a real glass this time. "Nev must have got onto them", I thought.

  4. If your CAMRA branch is a democracy then these arm chair activists have a point of view, they expressed it & they thwarted you. You can't get your own way every time.

  5. I accept that I was thwarted - I think that's clear from what I wrote -but I feel that events vindicated my stance. I can assure you that I am far from getting my own way every time.


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