Sunday, 5 February 2017

Tell people what you're up to

Problem solving at its best
Retired Martin has written on his blog about the frustration he had in trying to find out when a pub he wished to visit was open. This rings a number of bells with me. It has often struck me that some licensees haven't got their heads around the need for accurate and timely publicity.

Opening hours: why don't all licensees have a notice visible outside their pubs giving their opening hours? It doesn't have to be a special plaque. In fact, it would only take a couple of minutes to type a notice, print it and display it in the window nearest the door. In addition, why do some not put their hours on free social media, such as Facebook?

Variable hours, such as closing when there aren't enough people in. If a shop has only one or two customers in, it will, as a rule, stay open as advertised. I can cite two examples - the Falstaff, Southport and the Berkeley, Wigan - where the licensees had decided to close early. In the Falstaff I could have had a drink, but the bar was to be closed at 10.00 pm and this was around 9.45, which annoyed me so I opted to go across the road for a pint instead. In the days when pubs applied for extensions on bank holidays, the licensee of my then local would say he'd use it as long as there were enough people in. With that uncertainty, our group would decamp and go to a pub which we knew would definitely remain open, which meant he actually lost custom by imposing that condition. I'm sure the extra beers we would have bought would have covered any additional costs. If the pub hours are variable, there might as well be a notice saying: "Go and drink somewhere else!"

Pub music: pubs sometimes pay good money to book live music, an open mike night or even a karaoke, but then fail to publicise it. It may well be that some bands could help by providing posters, but I know from my own experience that you might provide - say - half a dozen posters, but they've put up only one or two, if any at all. How come? Don't they want any return from their outlay?

Pub beer festivals: a lot of work and financial investment goes into putting on a pub beer festival, so how come some pubs let CAMRA (and by that route, me) know late in the day? In one instance, having heard that a pub was putting on a festival, I called in for more details. There were no posters and the barmaid knew nothing about it. She referred me to another pub who'd tell me (the same people run both), but no luck there either. I recently commented on another local example of a last-minute notification. Oddly enough, most drinkers, including CAMRA members, have lives outside of pubs, such as families, jobs, other commitments, social activities and hobbies, and can't always drop everything at short notice.

Out of date signs: if a sign or notice has become out of date, it should be removed or brought up to date. Posters from events weeks ago just create the impression of neglect. A year ago, I wrote about the Windmill and, based on a sign outside, mentioned their live Irish music night. The licensee wrote a comment underneath, thanked me for the review but added: "Can I just point out we are waiting to have the chalk boards re-done; we no longer have Irish night, it is now live music from the 60s to the present". Fair enough, except that when I went past the pub a week or two ago, I noticed the sign still hadn't been corrected a year on.

I know running a pub is a busy job but, with the internet, publicity has never been so cheap (free, mostly) and, with a bit of effort at first to get the hang of it, really quite easy. Newspaper adverts do cost money and tend not to have the reach they used to, although some local papers may insert a small piece in their 'What's On' pages for nothing if there is a special event coming up, especially if it's a charity fundraiser.

Some pubs are good at publicity but others, often excellent in every other way, surprisingly are not. The days when pubs could just open the doors to let the crowds of eager punters pour in are largely gone. I'm not sure that everyone has absorbed the implications of that fact.


  1. Agreed - it baffles me how pubs, which are more likely to have unusual or erratic hours than any other kind of business, are also the worst at communicating them.

  2. It's as if pubs are vanity projects run for the convenience of the proprietor rather than customer.

    You'd have to be a proper mug to care if these dumps stayed open, surely?

  3. The most basic information possible is opening hours. The number of pub websites one comes across that don't reveal this most basic piece of information is truly staggering.


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