|The closed down Old Ship
First is the Old Ship on Eastbank Street, Southport. I discovered this pub at a time when I was helping run a folk song club that had become homeless. A friend who worked at the brewery (Tetley Walker) arranged for us to use the function room which became our club's home for several years. I began to go there at other times and made many friends there.
The manager Charlie Oliver was popular and was known for his well-kept Walkers ales. Bikers liked the pub, which had a great rock juke box. I remember Meatloaf was blasting out with “I'll do anything for love but I won't do that”. One biker at the bar asked, “What won't he do for love?” His mate replied, “Lose weight.”
On another occasion, a young man was being obnoxious. When Charlie politely asked him to leave, he began to argue, at which five bikers simply stood up. He then decided discretion was the better part of valour and hurriedly left.
|The Falstaff after its last short-lived refurbishment
both of these pubs
have been closed and boarded up for some time, two of the 13,600 pubs
that have closed in the UK since 2000. People walking past them now just see boarded up buildings, and most will be unaware that they used to be thriving community pubs, focal points for people to meet, have a few drinks and enjoy each other's company.
I'm sure most pubgoers realise that pub closures will accelerate as a result of the current pandemic. Our towns and cities will have more boarded up pubs to be sold for change of use or redevelopment. The government seems intent on doing the bare minimum to help - what's been offered has been wholly inadequate - and indeed seems to be opting for tier restrictions that are doing more harm than good. I'm not convinced that this is entirely due to their habitual incompetence - I suspect that there may be a hidden agenda, as I wrote here in September - but either way, the vaccine rollout will come too late to save thousands of pub from closure.