Pubs in transition

Management changes can make a dramatic difference to a local pub’s trade

Sometimes the experience of living, and latterly working here for nigh-on thirty years, can convey a real sense of understanding of how local businesses work. It helps to have set up a new business, a new kind of café for example, to get it running well, with increasing turn-over, and then to have to sell it off, and watch helplessly as it tanks. So we’ve seen that at first hand.

But pubs are a particular case in point, and since they seem to change hands every few years or so, even from afar they’re a source of endless speculation in the local community. Sometimes a new landlord will come in to a failing pub, set up a new regime of devoted service, and build up a thriving business. Other times a new landlord will come in to a thriving business, and somehow flail around and make a pig’s ear out of silk purse. Sometimes you’d never notice the difference, so seamless is the transition as the new management takes charge, and the business continues to thrive. Allendale has seen it all, of course, from ups to downs and in-betweens. Although it’s hard to know what will happen when a service sort of business is taken over by a new management, usually within the first weeks you get an idea of the direction.

So there are seven pubs in this patch: The Elk’s Head at Whitfield; The Cart’s Bog at Langley; The Crown at Catton; the Allenheads Inn; and the three on Allendale Square: The Golden Lion; The King’s Head; the Allendale Inn. An old friend of mine used to say that every pub was always ‘For Sale’ but I don’t quite think that’s true these days, though management change can occur without warning. What happens then? One of the early indicators of the state-of-play, of course, is a change, or not, in service. Will the behaviour of the clientele, including both individuals and groups, accommodate the change(s), then, or will they notice, or will folks make a shift? If we’ve learned anything over the decades, it’s that clientele shift can be dramatic, and though hard-won, also easily lost to eager competitors. In the early ’90s, there were seven pubs on Allendale Square alone, including the Hotspur, the Hare and Hounds, the old licensed Dale and even the Heatherlea before the moonlight flit) but there are still enough on the patch to take up any slack and accommodate a clientele migration.

Since local news is like a kind of intangible gold currency among friends, inevitably you’ll want to be keeping your ears open to these matters, for sure. At some point down the road, in some cases sooner rather than later, we’ll all know about the ramification of any changes, or then again we may barely remember to comment in passing on any transitions that have been virtually unnoticeable.

The job of this diary is to observe, to notice the way life goes on in this patch during this year.

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