‘DRY’ JANUARY MEETING
I have said on several occasions that Otley Pub Club is NOT an organisation that promotes the over-consumption of alcohol. Traditional English pubs obviously are inextricably linked with traditional English beer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always have a choice! So I’m quite happy to let you know about Alcohol Concern’s ‘Dry January’ campaign, which continues in 2015, even though I will personally still be [cautiously and sensibly] sampling the delights of Otley’s pubs’ vast range of quality draft ales.
Alcohol Concern is a small national charity which is trying to reduce the harmful effects that alcohol can sometimes create within families and communities. The idea of the campaign is to make money from donations – perhaps by getting your friends to sponsor you to not drink alcohol throughout the whole month. All money donated will help Alcohol Concern to continue delivering their work across the UK. More details about the campaign, games, ‘mocktails’ and more can be found on their website – https://registration.dryjanuary.org.uk/
This month’s OPC social event will begin in THE JUNCTION at 8 pm on Thursday the 8th of January. THE JUNCTION is the first pub you see as you arrive in Otley from Leeds [since the Yeoman closed in 2009] and maybe that’s why it’s still one of the most well-known pubs in Otley to people from out of town. It sits on the junction [ha!] of Bondgate and Charles Street, just opposite Chevin Cycles. It’s a traditional bar, with an open fire when needed and a small ‘snug’ to one side, with a wide choice of beers. Often full of dogs, or cyclists, or rugby fans, or musicians as well as real ale drinkers, and with regular live music sessions. Tables outside on Bondgate if you need them, but not the easiest place for on-street parking – although there is on- and off-street parking down Charles Street, and Sainsbury’s car park further along Bondgate.
At 8:45, we’ll have moved on to THE WHITE SWAN. If you turn left out of The Junction, go down Charles Street and then right on Walkergate, you arrive at Otley’s maypole. Turn left on Manchester Square in front of it, and the pub is on the opposite side of the main road [Boroughgate] and just to the left. It’s one of Otley’s old inns, with parts dating back 250 years. It has a good-looking stone frontage, with partial ‘mock-Tudor’ beams, and a stone archway alongside, under which a driveway leads into a large car park at the rear [opening onto Courthouse Street]. Again there are wooden tables on the wide pavement on Boroughgate, as well as a smoking area at the rear. The large, modern interior is split into three main rooms, and the long bar holds a wide range of beers. The pub hosts quizzes and live music events, including the popular Thursday open mic night ‘Bar-Room Buskers’, which should be in full flow when we arrive.
The final pub of the night at 9:30 will be THE MANOR HOUSE, which is back across Manchester Square, on Walkergate at the other side of the maypole! The Manor is the third traditional Otley pub of the night, and like The Junction, has been around for over 150 years. It’s the only brewery-tied house in Otley, and Thwaites have just contributed to a refurbishment to coincide with the arrival of the new publicans, David and Eileen Stephan. There is now a small snug to the left, especially suited to muddy-booted walkers and dogs, while the remainder of the open area is split into two main rooms, which have been re-carpeted and re-decorated. There’s a beer garden and smoking area to the rear, and parking on the surrounding streets. The pub has a portrait of 19th century Otley philanthropist Thomas Constable [who used to live in the manor house], and Thwaites have named a beer in his honour, as well as having 4 or 5 of their other real ales on the bar. David has already started having live music nights, and the pub always has a lively, friendly atmosphere.
DO YOU LIKE YOUR PUBS NOISY OR QUIET?
Pubs can be rowdy, music-filled, with sports on TV or just a great party atmosphere; or they can be havens of peace and quiet, with only the crackling of an open fire or the murmur of quiet conversation and the clinking of glasses to break the silence. Unfortunately [in my opinion at least] there still seems to be a tendency for most pubs to think we all want to hear the barman’s mixtape playing every minute of every day, or the just-audible background noise of a TV set in the corner – which is neither one thing nor the other.
Two news items from last month support each point of view:
- If you love live music in pubs, you should be supporting the Publicans’ Morning Advertiser’s ‘Make Some Noise’ campaign, which is calling for a change to noise legislation with regard to pubs. The campaign is already supported by Kris Hopkins, Community Pubs Minister, and MP for Keighley and Ilkley. I’ve already pointed you towards Frank Turner’s petition about the ‘Agent of Change’ principle, which would make residents responsible for soundproofing their own homes if they move into a property that’s close to an existing music venue. Now I can tell you about another petition on the eGov website, to introduce mandatory noise complaint waivers for anyone who buys or rents a property within close distance of a music venue. Unfortunately, this would come too late for one well-established Otley pub, which has recently had to spend thousands of pounds on its own sound-proofing. A second, equally well-established pub in Otley is also suffering from complaints from nearby residents, and is having to deal with Leeds City Council as well.
- On the quieter side, we should applaud J D Wetherspoon for winning two awards for ‘Lack of Unwanted Music’. JDW Chairman Tim Martin said “In my view, good conversation and drink and food is the key to a popular pub, as is the chance to have a pint and read the newspaper in peace.” I completely agree [although I think the price of their pints probably contributes quite a lot to the popularity of his own pub chain!]
MORE GOOD NEWS FOR PUBS
If I ever find myself thinking ‘Well, a pub’s just a business like any other – who really cares if they aren’t doing well?’, I just look at stories like this one, about The Fellowship, next to Bellingham station in South London. Not only did the local population care, but they managed to persuade the Heritage Lottery Fund to care enough to cough up £3.8 million! Just think what even a tenth of that could do, shared amongst the pubs of Otley!
NORTH BAR PLANS ITS OWN BREWERY
You probably know that North Bar Social in Otley is just one of a group of 6 pubs that have grown out of the original North Bar on New Briggate in Leeds – which opened in 1997, and lays claim to being the first craft beer bar in the UK. Well now the North Bar chain is planning its own brewery as well, to be called North Brewing Co. They haven’t yet decided between the two final locations on their short list, but they intend to host live music and films as well as having a weekend onsite bar that also offers food. More details here.
ASSETS OF COMMUNITY VALUE [ACVs]
Despite the success of ‘Mulholland’s law’ in breaking the tie between landlords and their Pubco, when it comes to buying products and services, there is still a lot more work to do to save community pubs and stop them being demolished or turned into supermarkets, bookmakers or whatever. One way is to get the pub registered with the local council as an asset of community value, which means that before it can be sold, the local community have to be given 6 months to decide whether they want to get together the money to bid for it themselves.
Otley Pub Club are currently involved in applying for all 20 of our pubs to be registered as ACVs – and not only because of each one’s individual and unique character and contribution to the town. Otley is known far and wide for the number and quality of its pubs [as the Tour de France publicity made clear] and any loss to the numbers will reduce that reputation. A recent investigation by Radio 5 Live explains the system, speaks to some people who have already been involved in the ACV process, and also points out other pitfalls. For instance, if the pub is NOT put up for sale, the owner can simply lease it to someone else, who can change its use to a retail outlet of any kind, without needing any planning permission whatsoever. The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer.
But it can work – just check out this story about The Porcupine in Bromley, saved from ‘Lidlification’!
AND FINALLY – A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!
I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas, as well as a great time celebrating the start of 2015. I was out in some of the pubs in Otley on New Year’s Eve, and the atmosphere was brilliant! We’re now finalising a calendar on the website, so you’ll always know when there’s music, or a quiz, or karaoke, or any other special event coming up in any of Otley’s pubs. By visiting them and enjoying yourself, you’ll also be helping them stay afloat, as well as enhancing the reputation of Otley as a #Famouspubtown ! So do have a very happy New Year – in Otley’s pubs!