March Meeting 2019



Back to my local, The Fleece, for this week’s meeting at 19:15, and we’ll be there till 20:45. A bit of a trek out of town I know, for those of you who are used to having a dozen pubs in the centre of town within a couple of minutes’ walk of each other, and who think The Junction’s a bit far to go! But as I always say – if it’s not somewhere you usually frequent, and you fancy seeing what it’s like, why not join us on Thursday evening? Then you can call in to the 18th century Cross Pipes with us on the way back into town, before finishing up at The Black Horse Hotel after about 21:30. I know you can now see the inside of all these pubs without actually having to visit them [by going to the Otley 3D Facebook page], and by all means do that first – but nothing beats soaking up the atmosphere of an actual pub, rather than a virtual one, while having a chat and a laugh and maybe a beer!


So yeah – beer – here we go again with the ‘good’ news story/’bad’ news story routine! And it’s really up to you to decide which is which!

This one from from February 11 states that 2018 showed the biggest year-on-year growth in beer sales for no less than 47 years, with an increase of 2.6%. Sadly, the biggest increase was in off-sales from shops and supermarkets, with beer sales in pubs increasing by only 0.1%. The increase is put down mainly to England’s [relative] success in the World Cup, and the good weather attracting people into pub beer gardens – neither of which come round every year! Nevertheless, it means people are drinking more beer, right?

Not if you believe this alternative article from The MailOnline [naturally] with a headline that says “Millenials shun alcohol”. A sub-heading then says “The Dutch brewer revealed a 7.7 per cent rise in revenues from Heineken 0.0”. Unfortunately, even the most cursory research shows that the 7.7% figure refers to a world-wide volume increase in sales of all drinks with the Heineken brand name, not just the 0.0, and certainly not just in this country. That figure could be driven by increased beer sales, higher prices, and consumers trading up, to more expensive drinks. Now I’m not saying alcohol-free beers aren’t increasing in popularity, or that the development of 0.0% beers that are actually palatable isn’t a good thing. Just that you should never just believe what you read, and that beer can’t be dead AND alive at the same time – whatever Schrödinger thinks.


A bit of good news for pubs at last – even if they are all in Wales! An article in The Morning Advertiser online reports that the Welsh Government is investing £23.6 million to extend its high street business rates relief scheme in 2019-20. According to the British Beer and Pub Association [BBPA] some 2,000 Welsh pubs will benefit from the move, including about 500 that will be taken out of business rates altogether.


BBC’s You and Yours programme on Thursday 21st of Feb [Just after 29 minutes] contained a piece about pub games, which they suggested might be a way of breathing new life into pubs. First problem is, you need space to put them in. Brew Dog in Leeds might have room for shuffleboard, and you might even get a short skittle alley in The Black Horse stables yard, but you’d be lucky to get even table skittles in The Bay Horse! Nevertheless, I have talked about this before, and I think a variety of games other than pool and darts would be a great addition to Otley’s pubs.

This particular piece is about digital darts, at a place called Flightclub in Manchester. So how does digital darts work? First off, you and your friends have a space that’s separate from the rest of the pub. OK, I know this goes against the grain of pubs being places to meet and mix, but maybe millennials aren’t into that [just yet, at least! Maybe once they’ve actually entered a pub they might not still believe it’s the outer circle of hell!] Although when I heard one of the darts players explain why she liked it, I almost wanted to stick a dart in my own eye – “It’s good here as well, because so many people post on social media about what they’re up to, and ‘cos you get all the recordings and everything, like it prompts you to post yourself about it.” Err, so you want to come out and socialise so you can look at your phone to see what other people are doing, and then, like, post on your own phone what you’re doing, so they can see it  .  .  .  ? OMG!!

If you really want to see what it’s like, and how the digital dartboard, screen and games work, check out the videos and other info on the Flightclub Manchester website [ I did – and the dart is now hovering over my other eye!] I did like the list of other potential activities that the BBC programme said might be promoted in pubs though– axe throwing, wall climbing, indoor golf [well, I suppose maybe the first one might be popular in some pubs – even in Otley!]


Yes, I have been known to run there now and again, but usually only when it’s raining – you didn’t think I was THAT desperate, did you? But I’m really not sure about this article from ! The American multinational sportswear company New Balance Athletics Inc., which is one of the world’s major sports footwear manufacturers, has opened a pub in Charing Cross Road in London. Weird enough on its own, I guess, but even weirder is the way athletes can be ‘rewarded’ for completing monitored runs. New Balance have teamed up with the social media app Strava, which is primarily used to track individuals’ cycling and running journeys using GPS data. When you’ve completed one of the Strava challenges, the miles automatically add up on your phone, and you can then use the phone to get free drinks – for you AND a friend! [That would be me, then.]

Although the upstairs of the Runaway contains a bar in a normal pub setting, there’s a gym and weights area downstairs for runners to stretch and work out. Samantha Matthews for New Balance is quoted as saying “We’re excited to open our very first New Balance pub and look forward to welcoming runners to the bar to exchange their miles for pints.” So, if this is just the first, I wonder if they would consider opening one in Otley? There are plenty of runners here – and plenty of drinkers. What do you think – should I write to them and suggest it?


A ‘deed of easement’ has been granted to the 700 year old George Tavern in East London, which means that residents in any new development built near the pub will not be able to get the music stopped as a noise nuisance. We’ve written previously about the problems facing pubs that provide live music when new residential properties are built nearby, and told you about musician Frank Turner’s attempts to change the law so that such music venues could not be closed down by new neighbours. In a way, it’s like people moving into the countryside to benefit from being closer to nature, and then complaining about the noise of cows mooing or cocks crowing in neighbouring farms. If you want to move somewhere because it’s ‘trendy’ or has multiple local facilities and resources, don’t then complain about those same resources once you’ve moved in!

Pauline Forster has been the landlady of the grade 2 listed George Tavern in Stepney for well over a decade, and a campaign to save it as a music venue has been running since 2008. The deed of easement granted to the pub by Tower Hamlets is only the second one used to save a music venue – the first was for The Ministry of Sound in 2013. You can read more about the battle to save the music venue and read more about the pub on their website.


Did you miss the antiques valuation event for the town’s Chippendale 300 celebrations last year? Well here’s your chance to catch up with another one. Otley Chamber of Trade have just posted this on their Facebook page – “Dust down your Chippendale, polish your tiara and root out your Renoir and join us for another valuation day at [Stephen H Smith’s]  garden centre. We are expecting 2 valuers this time so you won’t have to queue too long.” The valuers will be from Hanson’s Auctioneers and Valuers Ltd, from Derbyshire, and the date is Wednesday, March 13th from 11am to 3pm. It’s sure to be popular, so why not take your stuff down there – you might get a pleasant surprise.

Donations in aid of refreshments will go to the Robert Sinclair Davidson Foundation, and items may be left for inclusion in a forthcoming auction.


We already know that community pubs can be successful if only they’re given a chance and [despite the apparent sad news about Otley’s own attempt to purchase and run a pub for the benefit of the town] here’s more proof. A press release from CAMRA has announced that their national pub of the year award for 2018 has gone to The Wonston Arms in Hampshire. The photos show the pub was derelict and empty 4 years ago, and is now thriving at the heart of the community as a hub for local sports, social and music groups and events as well as a venue for local food vendors and charity collections. Pubs in the competition are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, community focus and the quality of the beer. So congratulations to them, and who’s to say one of Otley’s fine pubs won’t be joining them soon? [Photos from CAMRA press release.]



According to an article in Nature: International Journal of Science, researchers have come up with a way of using brewer’s yeast to manufacture artificial THC. That’s tetrahydrocannabinol, and it’s the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Of course, the yeast isn’t readily available down at your local home-brew shop, and has been genetically altered to produce both THC and Cannabidiol [CBD]. The latter has potential anti-anxiety and pain relief effects, which gives you a clue as to why big pharma is interested in the process. If they can increase the proportion of the active drug that has currently been ‘brewed’, not only is it likely to be cheaper and more readily-available than plant-based cannabis sativa, but as the compounds are artificially produced they can be patentable, leading to potentially huge profits. I’m not sure whether the researchers have been testing their own products though. Vikramaditya Yadav, a chemical engineer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada perhaps didn’t choose his words carefully enough, when he was quoted as saying “The pharmaceutical industry will really lap those molecules up,”!!

Bob Brook

OPC Newsletter Editor

04 March 2019

All photographs not specifically attributed are either local ones that I have been given permission to use, or free for commercial use from, with no attribution required.

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