Wednesday 28 May 2014

'Worst' local trumps Nick Clegg

Local papers! Today's Southport Champion has as front page headline news the fact that the pub nearest Southport railway station has a new licensee. The local and EU elections were relegated to part of page 3, including a statement by our LibDem MP that perhaps Nick Clegg should go. Our local MP rebelling against the leader of his party and deputy prime minister to boot is clearly less newsworthy than new management at the Albert Hotel.

The Albert doesn't have a particularly good reputation, but Champ's description of it as Southport's worst seems a bit harsh. It is a multi-roomed pub, with a ground floor function room where I once went to see a jazz band: that was one of the most joyless musical nights I have ever been to, and I left before the end. I won the raffle twice, but didn't claim my prizes, as I couldn't see anything I wanted, and thought they'd be better going to someone who might appreciate them. There was nothing wrong with the band, but it must have been like swimming through glue for them. In recent years, they have had a Wychwood real ale when I've gone in and it's usually been kept okay.

I last wrote about the pub four years ago when it was shut and had a 'for sale' sign outside. It did reopen and has had a couple of licensees since then. The new people say they want to turn it around into a good community local, so getting splashed all over the front page is a good start. They're talking about turning one room into a student café; they've certainly got the space for it.

I'd have thought its location by the railway station would have been an advantage with lots of transitory trade, and of course visitors to the town wouldn't know of its reputation. The problem is, owing to lack of investment, it has looked run-down and not particularly welcoming for some time. I'd assumed that it was going down the usual path: owners let the pub become dingy, trade plummets, and then the owners say that it's not paying its way and they have no choice but to sell the site, as though becoming unviable was an unpreventable misfortune, rather than - as it often is - a policy of managed decline to realise some capital.

I hope the new team running the pub succeeds in improving this pub as, other than neglect, there's basically nothing wrong with the building or location.

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