Saturday, 4 July 2015

Pubs - something old, something new ...

An old photo of the Falstaff
The Falstaff on King Street in Southport was once a great pub. It used to have up to 10 real ales, provided good, reasonably-priced meals and was the original venue for the singaround that now takes place in the Guest House on the first Monday of the month. It went into a slow decline after its licensee, Gail, left to take over the Guest House about 14 years ago. There was a brief interlude when the pub revived under a dynamic young licensee, Adrian Davies, but he was dismissed at short notice by the pubco; Adrian told me he didn't really understand why. It has in recent years advertised itself as an LGBT pub, but I've no idea how well that has gone. The last time I called in a couple of years ago, there were at most half a dozen customers and no real ale. It is a large, single-roomed pub, having expanded some time ago into neighbouring shops, and needs a lot of customers not to appear depressingly empty.

I was pleased to see Inglenook Inns & Taverns, who have taken it over, announce a £325,000 revamp. Inglenook runs the Thatch & Thistle that I wrote positively about recently. According to one of our local papers, the interior will be redesigned to include a coffee lounge, a raised dining area, booths and a zone suitable for larger parties. If as a result of these plans the large expanses are broken up, that would definitely be an improvement. The paper wrongly asserts that food will be provided for the first time: nonsense - the Falstaff used to have a good reputation for its food. It has a large terrace to the front which is great on a summer's day; we had acoustic song sessions there a couple of times. I'm hoping all this revives a pub that I used to regard as my local.

Also in the news are plans for a new micropub in a former shop in Sandon Road near Hillside Station, a couple of stops from Southport on the Liverpool line. The plans include limited opening hours (Monday to Friday 4pm to 9.30pm, and midday to 9.30pm at weekends), no hot food and no music. They haven't got permission yet, but the application is recommended for approval. Hillside is badly served for pubs: there's only The Crown on Liverpool Road. Interestingly, there's also an application to convert a shop into a cafĂ© bar just around the corner in Hillside Road; if that is approved too, as is recommended, the number of licensed outlets in the area will triple.

This will be the fourth micropub in Southport - I wrote about the others in April. It is interesting that these are opening while some big old pubs in residential areas are suffering and closing, which all suggests less that going to the pub is a declining activity, and more that what people want from pubs is changing.


  1. Martin, Cambridge6 July 2015 at 08:20

    It's an interesting point about losing traditional pubs in the residential areas and gaining new-style drinking venues in the centre.

    Southport has always seemed to have some good beer across the town, with traditional houses in Churchtown and Birkdale featuring in the Beer Guide as well as a mix of free houses around Lord Street. However, some suburbs of the town may be poorly catered for (around Pontins from memory !)

    While micro pubs are welcome and improve choice, they will rarely bring the range of custom seen in a well run traditional pub. Beer shops with on-licences are also welcome, but do tend to be centrally located.

  2. I'd agree that something the size of a newsagent doesn't adequately replace an old Victorian pub such as the London Hotel, which has been demolished recently. Outside of the town centre, there are large areas that are not well served: High Park, Kew, Birkdale beyond the village and Ainsdale. I think it's partly due to the fact that people are more likely to travel into the town centre for a night out rather than go to their own local pub, especially as some of those pubs have been allowed to become run down. The London, for instance, had become very dingy.


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