Hop Presshops Hop Press Issue 39 front cover

Issue 39 – Spring 1995


A rough OCR of the original leaving out adverts & some sections such as the Crossword

Go to Previous Hop Press   Browse for another Hop Press
Go to Next Hop Press


Children's certificates – freedom or fiasco?
Hop Press index

The ebullient Ken Clarke, in his (short) sojourn at the Home Office, announced in 1993 the Government's intention of bringing the Scottish system of "children's certificates" into the English licensing law. CAMRA welcomed the idea then and we welcome the law now that it is in force. But, as we have now come to expect with almost all of the legislation from this benighted administration, the implementation of the law looks set to become a farce.

It was clear from Clarke's speech announcing the plan exactly what sort of pub would warrant a certificate and what sort of use one could see families making of this long over-due liberalisation. The ordinary village inn, the old-established suburban local, the town centre lunch-time eatery – all of these could qualify. Only the minority of hard cases, the hang-outs of the lager lout and the inappropriately named football "supporter" would be beyond consideration. Families could, at last, just drop into a pub together in an entirely natural way, another small step towards a more civilised age.

In Scotland, where such certificates have been available for over ten years, it is well known that the system is not perfect since discretion in granting the certificates is almost wholly in the gift of the magistracy. This results in a patchwork – a third of the pubs around Aberdeen can accept families Midst in Edinburgh, despite repeated legal battles, less than one in a hundred have won permission. Parliament and the Home Office knew of this state of affairs very well and the debate in the House referred frequently to the need to avoid the "Scottish problem." Unhappily, in their wisdom, our skilful MPs not only managed not to avoid the problem but seem to have deliberately laid exactly the same trap for the English licensee.

The actual legislation was part of the giant dc-regulation bill, in itself a significant point as it demonstrates the intention of easing rules rather than tightening them. However just a few words have ruined the law's effect; magistrates may grant a certificate, it says: "... if it appears to them to be appropriate ..." Around the country benches have seized upon this phrase to give themselves powers to define such onerous conditions that almost no imaginable pub could possibly either gain or, more importantly, afford a certificate.

Although the magistrates' benches in each district operate independently, from the nature of the "guidelines" being issued by benches around the country, the impression is of an orchestrated effort to undermine the intention of the deregulation effort.

A selection of the conditions being imposed around the country by these guardians of morality and family life give a flavour of their thinking.

• No gaming machines within the area.
• No traditional bar games such as darts.
• Children not to be served or to consume anything at the bar counter.
• The area to be defined by barriers.
• Toilets with baby changing facilities to be directly accessible from the area.

Huntingdon: (a noted Parliamentary seat)
• Children to remain seated at tables.
• No smoking.
• No "happy hour" or like promotions.
• No gaming machines, pool, snooker, darts etc.
• Bench to approve children's "recreational equipment" – TV, video, swings (sic!) etc.

• Two high chairs must be provided.
• No smoking, no games etc.
• Electrical outlets, fires etc. to be guarded.
• Baby changing area with lidded bin for soiled nappies.

• No gaming machines, darts etc.
• Conditions on cleaning and supervision of toilets and "play areas."
• Low toilets and washbasins.
• Preferably a separate room.
• Conditions restricting bars only to staff.
• Fixed guards over all heating appliances.

• Heating and electrical outlets to be guarded.
• No tables with sharp edges, no glass tables, no high bar stools.
• Menu to have children's section or half portions.

Finally Southampton have come up with this gem, which I can do no better than to quote in its entirety: "There shall be a no smoking area set aside however, where a section of the premises already has a designated no smoking area and the section abuts the area covered by this certificate no further no smoking area need by (sic) designated." Perhaps a small prize for any reader giving a believable explanation of this paragraph.

This fiasco has come about despite the Home Office issuing a circular to all benches expressly stating that the intention was that there should be "... the least possible alteration to the normal operation of the bars concerned. ... that does not impose unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming burdens on ... the licensees." Writing (in early February) to the Home Office for comment on this sorry situation has, so far, brought no response – so much for the laughable "chartermark" idea!

Needless to say, my original intention for this edition, to give a list of the many pubs that would by now welcome a family into the bar, has had to be abandoned. At the time of writing no "ordinary" pub in our area has thought it worthwhile to try an application. The Brewer's Fayre and the Harvester chains have mostly been granted certificates but this is hardly much change since they already operated as family establishments under their restaurant licences. Even so the manager of one stated that the certificate's conditions were much more stringent than those already in force for his restaurant licence! What price deregulation?

The legislation allows for appeal to the Crown Court so, in the (very) long run, after improving the bank balances of many lawyers, these idiotic rules will be overturned but is this a sane way to run society? If Parliament had wanted to establish a class of "licensed McDonalds" it would have legislated accordingly. What world do these justices inhabit – have they never been into an Irish bar, a French café or even a Channel Island pub? Do they believe that British children are uniquely corruptible, uniquely accident prone or just uniquely unimportant?

AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE? Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

A recent survey, conducted by Datamonitor for Licensee magazine, suggested that of the 57,000 pubs now trading, 5,000 would close by the year 2000. Such predictions are not new and stem from the continuing overall fall in alcohol consumption, together with the increase in the proportion consumed at home. This trend for reduction in pubs has been with us for years, if not centuries. A walk around Romsey, for example, will show scores of former hostelries, easily explaining the saying from Victorian times: "So drunk he must have been to Romsey."

In Hampshire we have not suffered closures at anything like the rate of many areas. Rural East Anglia, a former Watney fiefdom, has been ravaged and many big industrial towns lost heavily in massive "re-development" programmes. Locally, however, we have lost relatively few pubs in recent years. Adolf Hilter caused the biggest twentieth century drop in Southampton's pubs but if they had remained standing it is almost certain that an equivalent number would have closed during the following peaceful years.

There are just over 600 pubs in the area of CAMRA's Southern Hampshire Branch, about one for each branch member! Some thirty closed over the last ten years but the good news is that in the same period about as many new ones opened. A major problem when calculating such figures is defining a pub. The survey mentioned above claimed 57,000 pubs in the country but a survey five years ago by another company, Stats MR, gave a figure of 72,000. Certainly, 15,000 have not closed during these five years so the base definitions must differ. A street corner local with a bank of handpumps and a dart board is unambiguously a pub, but what about a Beefeater, a Berni Inn or a wine bar?

In the rest of this article, where we look at the pattern of local changes over the past decade, the general rule is that establishments are included if a customer can enjoy a pint without having to buy a meal.

A third of closures have been in the centre of Southampton. The Lord Louis and the Windsor both went in 1987 to make way for the Marlands shopping centre, the same year the nearby Wagon became Marco Polo's Restaurant. In the High Street, Gatti's shut in 1984, the Southerner became the Bargate but closed in 1989 – it is now the Bank of Scotland – and the Queens became Classic Corner in 1986, the Frock and Jacket in 1989 and Los Arcos a year or so later. It soon closed however after a customer died as a result of drinking a large quantity of spirits in a "game" being encouraged by the bar staff. Part of the building is now the City Beijing Restaurant. Other central area losses were Scullards (formally the Park), the Rum Runners, the Globe and the Sun, whilst the Haymarket became Limelight and then a restaurant.

This pattern is typical of most city centres, largely because the sites are more profitable as retail outlets rather than as pubs. Most of the closures above were undeniably pubs, they have been superseded by pub/restaurants, pub/nightclubs and wine bars. The developments at Ocean Village and Town Quay have provided a number of these new establishments, some of which have not lasted very long! Across the water, Hythe Marina has, since 1988, the Lock'n'Quay, which is more pub.like than the Southampton waterfront developments.

The other area of Southampton which has seen a growth for licences is Oxford Street. Two new wine bars have opened in the last year whilst the pubs in the area have undergone numerous changes of name and decor. One reason for the larger number of wine bars than pubs opening may be related to the ease of obtaining the licence. In order to open any sort of drinking establishment the proprietor has to obtain an "on licence." It is difficult to persuade the magistrates in most areas that there is a demand for more pubs, whereas a wine bar can claim to be aimed at a different, new market. In early cases conditions were put on the wine bars' licences preventing the sale of draught beers. Such restrictions now seem to be less common and the dividing line between the wine bar and the pub has narrowed. The last new true pub to open in a town centre was probably the Inn on the Furlong in Ringwood although even that is in a building that had been a pub many years before.

Winchester lost pubs very heavily in the second part of this century but the rate has now slowed, the South Western was the most recent casualty and before that the Hop Inn (formerly the Bird in Hand) served its last pint in 1989. Three others also closed within the last ten years. The Castle Inn had become a steak house but still catered for drinkers before it became a Chinese restaurant in 1989. St. John's House on the Broadway was a disco/pub for a couple of years in the mid-eighties, run by the ill-fated Leading Leisure. The Coach Station had become Flamingo Park in 1985 before it closed two years later to become the Saxon Hotel, which was then purchased by Queens Moat House in 1990. During the period, numbers in the city were kept up by openings of a rash of wine/cafe bars, including Muswells (1988), Greens (1990), Hunters (1992) and Harveys last year. Wine bars may not be to the taste of all of our readers but an increasing number now sell real ale, possibly to customers who would not visit a traditional pub.

In many parts of the country road schemes and major urban "restoration" developments are common causes for wholesale demolition of pubs. We have been only moderately troubled by such matters. As mentioned, the Marlands centre led to the closure of two pubs but the last local pub to be closed for road building was the Railway, demolished to make way for the Portswood link road. The same road probably contributed in part to the closing of the Waterloo at its southern end. Changes in the patterns of road travel and catering may have also caused the loss of another pub, the isolated Compton Arms at Stoney Cross, which became a Happy Eater around 1988. The Plough at Bishop's Sutton closed about 18 months ago, a decision almost certainly precipitated by the vast drop in passing traffic produced by the opening of the Alresford bypass a few years previously.

The Plough was located in a rural setting, albeit on a main road. The closure of country pubs has been an emotive subject for the media in recent years. The closure of a village pub, post office or school always grabs the headlines, as it is seen as another nail in the coffin of rural life. Incredibly, we believe that the last village pub closure in our area, before the Plough, was in September 1984 when the H.H. (Hampshire Hunt) in Cheriton served its last pint. There have been a number of threats to village pubs since then but they have all been saved in the end. Some of these pubs have remained open after having been purchased by affluent residents of the villages. A lifeline for the country pub that few would have predicted and perhaps only available to the richer counties.

With Hampshire's tremendous population growth rate many previously rural areas are being rapidly built over. A lot of the new pubs that have opened in the last ten years have been built to serve these new centres of population. Most of these pubs are large and are built in converted farmhouses or reproductions of such. The Shamblehurst Barn at Hedge End started this trend at the beginning of the eighties. Grossly inflated Chandler's Ford added two, the Hiltonbury Farmhouse in 1986 closely followed by the new built Cleveland Bay. Southampton's eastern dormitories got two new pubs in 1989, the Two Brothers at Townhill and the Grange in Netley. A third, the Windhover at Bursledon was opened in 1991, easily accessible from the motorway network, which was also the reason for the building of the Berni Inn (now the Mill Tavern) in 1989 close to the retail developments at Hedge End. The Roebuck at Marchwood also fits into this pattern although this was a brand new pub built in 1987, in a shopping centre. Two other new food and family oriented establishments were conversions of existing buildings on the edges of towns. The Luzborough was opened on the edge of Romsey in 1986 whilst the River Inn was opened the year before at Bishopstoke. The same company that opened the River Inn were also responsible for the re-opening of the Enchanted Cottage Tea Rooms at Lyndhurst, which then became the Bolton's Bench Inn in 1991.

All of our smaller towns have had their share of closures but nowhere has the result been too drastic. The Londesborough and Pier 68, gone from Lymington, the Fleming Arms from Romsey and the Mafeking Hero from Bishop's Waltham are examples. Whilst the number of closures has been relatively small over the past ten years, the threat is always with us. Here in southern Hampshire, as this article has shown, the future is perhaps not as bleak as it has been painted elsewhere and the real ale drinker is likely to have as many opportunities to enjoy a pint in the future as in the recent past, although the surroundings may well have changed.

Drinking habits in Britain, like any other part of social activity, have always evolved, never more so than at present. Throughout these changes the public house, in some form, has always been there and must never be lost. It is up to those of you reading this article, which you will have picked up by visiting a pub, to continue to visit your local and to bring your friends. Only this, profitable trade, will ensure that the British pub survives beyond the next century. The British pub has survived because it has adapted over the years to meet the demands of its potential customers and the future will certainly present more opportunities for articles such as this. Yet nothing can improve on the force of Hilaire Belloc's heartfelt plea from early this century: "When you have lost your inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England."


Rob Whatley

In the last edition of Hop Press we mentioned that we were anxiously looking out for the first pub to sell a pint of bitter for £2.00.

Barely had Hop Press hit the bars when we paid a visit to Tramways (formerly the Crown) in Shirley. A pint of IPA (abv 3.4%) was purchased for a very reasonable £1.35. The other real ale on offer was Old Speckled Hen. A pint was ordered and two pound coins handed over, we waited for the change and then saw with horror that £2.00 had been rung up on the till.

Tramways is owned by Morlands, a regional brewer based in Abingdon, which has some 400 pubs and have recently bought a number in the Southampton area. The profile of the brewery has increased considerably in recent years, largely as a result of the widespread availability of Old Speckled Hen. This beer is common in Whitbread pubs but we have never heard of it being sold for £2.00 a pint in a Whitbread pub locally. Small independent breweries have for many years been praised by CAMRA for selling their beers in their tied houses at cheaper prices than those charged by the national brewers. For a regional brewery to be the first in our area to charge £2.00 a pint for bitter and to out-price a big brewery to whom it sells the same beer at (presumably) a profit, is a cause for profound sadness. Fortunately for the drinkers of Shirley there are many more pubs nearby.

On the bright side, a number of local pubs, including the Mitre in Portswood, have been selling Webster's Green Label bitter for 99p a pint as a "house beer." Wadworth's pubs were recently selling WA for £1.10 a pint for a limited promotional period and some may be continuing this as a low price offer. A little more expensive is the £1.26 a pint for Hancock's HB at the Anchor in Eling, for Pots Ale at both Cheriton Brewhouse pubs and £1.30 for a pint of Adnanis Mild or Courage Best at the Duke of Wellington in Southampton. Even these prices are a veritable king's ransom compared with the barely believable 79p a pint being charged for Younger's Scotch Bitter (abv 3.7%) in the pubs of the JD Wetherspoon chain. Most of their 80 plus pubs are in the London area but they recently opened one in Bournemouth.

There must be a good chance of the company opening a pub in Southampton in the next couple of years as it is looking to expand its estate. If they do the venture may not be an existing pub since the company has converted many of its houses from former shops or other businesses, even ex-Woolworth stores! All Wetherspoon's houses have food all day, no smoking areas and an absence of juke boxes – they can not come to Southampton quick enough.

[Since writing this article it has been suggested that Wetherspoons have plans to convert the former Barclays Bank in the High Street, between the Star and the Dolphin. This would be something of an irony as it is opposite the Bank of Scotland which was converted from the Southerner pub!]


Richard White

There is no need to stress here the financial advantages to the lager drinker (or even the larger drinker ...) of the very cheap cross-Channel trips currently available. However, they also provide a chance for the serious beer enthusiast to make a thorough study of the wonderful diversity of the Belgian beer scene. Belgium is within an hour of Calais.

Including fuel, a car with five passengers can make a round trip to Flanders for no more than £50. West Flanders has an immense diversity of beers – one of the best in the world. It also has fine food and many tourist attractions from the preserved old city of Brugge (Bruges) to the sombre relics of the Great War's western front. Here are a few suggestions for a whirlwind tour, so long as you have a non-drinking driver!

From Calais take the N1/E40 coast road towards Dunkerque, contemplating, en route, the rustic nuclear power plants at Gravalines. At the outskirts of Dunkerque, head for Lille on the A25/E42, leave this motorway at junction 13 – Steenvoorde – and head east toward Poperinge. You cross the border (if you notice!) at Abeele and after about a mile see a notice on the left: "Beer Shop." This store is run by a Belgian member of CAMRA, Noël Cuveier, he stocks up to 200 different beers.

After loading a few cases in the boot head back a short distance and turn right into Abeele and then make for Watou. Here there are two breweries, the St.. Bernardus brewery makes trappist style beers to the recipes of the nearby St. Sixtus Abbey and the Van Eecke brewery also brews abbey style beers, under the name of Het Kapittel. In the town square, two cafés offer the local beers: on one side the Gasthof de Eendracht (Harmony Inn) and on the other 't Hommethof (The Hop Garden). The latter is highly recommended for its food as well as the beers. Hommel is a dialect word for hop, properly, it means bumble-bee so Van Eecke's other beer, the 7½% hommelbier, may well need respect!

From Watou, with a good map or local directions, head for Krombeke. here you will pick up hand-written signs for "Abdij St. Sixtus" which lead you along some narrow lanes into Donkerstraat where there is the abbey and, opposite, the café In de Vrede (Peace Inn, perhaps more literally "in peace"). The café serves the local beers and snacks made with the abbey cheeses and local ham and pates. For take-away goods, try the abbey first – if they have enough stock their prices are lower than those in the café shop.

After this stop, continue into Westvleteren then north onto the N65 to Veurne. If more refreshment is required then in the square here is another fine food and beer establishment, the Cafe Flandria. Otherwise continue towards De Panne (not by the direct road but by the N72 toward Adinkerke and then the De Panne road that is also signed Meli Park).

On the De Panne side of Meli Park is a warehouse supermarket called Ad Del Haize, a fine stop for beer, glasses, chocolate etc. It is open every day until quite late but it does close for lunch.

There are several good bars in the centre of the seaside resort of De Panne, there is the Cafe Robinson almost on the seafront and in the centre another that prominently advertises the Westmalle trappist beers from the far east of Belgium. After visiting them and maybe a quick stroll along the beach, it will probably be time to get your non-drinking driver to head straight back down the coast road to Calais!

These few notes are just to whet the appetite, a serious student of beer could spend months just in Vlaanderen without even starting on the rest of Belgium. Here are a few more ideas from the same area as th tour outlined above.

Esen, on the road between Diksmuide and Roeselare (Roulers) has the brewery of De Dolle Brouwers – the "mad brewers." It is open to visitors on Sunday afternoons and you can sample a variety of beer types although all are about 8%, so take care.

leper (Ypres) must be a place to visit for anyone with a sense of history, if only to stand at the Menin Gate and marvel at humanity's infinite capacity for stupidity. The aptly named Ter Posterie opposite the post office provides a cheerful refreshment point yet also adds continuity since the Flemish owner flew with the RAF during the second great conflict.

It cannot possibly do Brugge (Bruges) justice to include it in any one day tour. "The Venice of the north," one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe needs a bit longer! Any visitor might start by getting a copy of A Walking Guide to Bruges. All we will do here is just list a few of the best bars out of the hundreds in the city.

't Brugse Beertje (Little Bruges bear), Kernelstraat is a wonderful bar with a beer file in place of a menu. Do not ask for lager

Curiosa, Vlamingstraat is a cellar bar with both good beer and food, very popular. Another that can get very crowded is the Staminée de Garre at 1 de Garre. this has over one hundred beers on its list including its own, strong, specially commissioned brew. The numerous dried sausages hanging about add something to the atmosphere.

Finally a couple to visit as much for scenic as consuming reasons. The Oude Vlissinghe in Blekerstraat is a restored ancient building well worth a look and the Brouwerij Taverne in Walplein will provide a drink and the adjoining brewery, when open for visits, gives a wonderful view of Bruges from the top.

CAMRA produces a Good Beer Guide to Belgium and Holland a fairly idiosyncratic work mostly written by ex-National Executive member and psychiatrist, Tim Webb. A fully revised new edition will be available in May. Cover price is £9.99 and orders by post, with Access or Visa, can be placed with CAMRA's head office on 01727 867201.

One last linguistic point, not many of us have any Dutch, let alone Flemish which has quite a number of differences, but many have some school French. Do not try to use it unless asked. Belgium's language question is more passionately felt than we might realise. Speaking French in some instances can result in animosity, to say the least.

Ten Years Ago Hop Press index

The Spring 1985 edition of Hop Press had a main feature article on the pubs of the Ryde and a two page article devoted to the Lord Nelson at Hythe. The editorial was on the perennial theme of prices, as usual extolling Manchester's wonderful value for money – no change there in a decade!

Two of the advertisements bring back some fond memories. One welcomed readers to the Mason's Arms in St. Mary Street, then a snug little traditional pub, rated "excellent" as one of Southampton's nine enties chosen for the 1985 Good Beer Guide. Now it is sadly dark and boarded up. The other extolled the anticipated delights of the Winchester Beer Festival which was to take place at the Recreation Centre in May – ten years on and our annual festival still does not have a secure home

Pub news mostly concerned openings and closings. The closures were the Painted Wagon in Southampton and the Londesborough Hotel in Lymington. There was also the news of the removal of the fine little brewing plant fron the Gate Inn in Bassett, after only a couple of years of production. There were rumours that it would be re-installed at another local Whitbread pub but this never materialised; Whithread had presumably decided that their real ale stratagey was towards the "cask ale houses" we now see. Anticipated openings included three totally new pubs, Ringwood's Inn on the Furlong (which we then thought might be run as a free house and be called the Englishman's Castle), the River Inn at Bishopstoke and the Hiltonbury Farmhouse at Chandler's Ford.


Derek Markell

Just too late for the last edition of Hop Press we heard news of an end of an era at one of our favourite Forest pubs, the Mailman's Arms in Lyndhurst.

After fifteen years as Marston's tenants, Larry and Yvonne Walder finally called it a day on November 28th. The farewell party was a poignant event. They had been in the Good Beer Guide for most of their tenancy and also won awards for both their garden and their food, also they made tremendous efforts towards charitable events. The bar, packed with friends, wished them well but was sorry to see them retire (if, indeed, they do retire, something that is not clear at the time of writing).

The new licensees are Alistair Gray and Julie Duffett, from Poole. They are keen to boost the catering side and have converted one of the bars into a fish restaurant. We welcome them and wish them well, they have quite an act to follow!

The Mailmans is not the only Marston's pub to change hands in recent months, there is almost a turmoil throughout their tied estate. More seems to be at work than just natural ageing and a tenant's understandable desire for a good rest. The brewery's high rent policy under their, so called, "New Deal" has to be indicted. The drastic rent increases, started about three years ago, are putting tenants under ever increasing strain and are actually forcing some out of their livelihoods and their homes. As a byproduct of this, the price differential for which Marston's beers used to be noted, has also vanished.

For many years we have enjoyed good relations with the Marston company – the beers were excellent, most landlords likewise and the pubs were unspoilt. This was reflected in the very high proportion selected by this branch for entry into the Good Beer Guide. Since 1978 at least a third of our selections have been Marston houses, in two years it rose as high as 40%. Unhappily, this will not be the case in the 1996 edition. The rapid turnover of tenants (even more so managers, in the growing number of managed houses) makes it impossible for many of the houses to establish their beer quality and their ambience well enough to warrant selection.

When this year's rent reviews are completed, how many more tenants will have to throw in the sponge? How many more will be rewarded for long, faithful service to Marston by a slap in the face from the bean-counting accountants who now control the company? How do they expect a long-established and popular community pub, surrounded by terraced houses, many occupied by pensioners, to increase its trade continually in order to follow an ever rising rent?

Has Marston's brewery lost its corporate way? We hope not, surely it is not too late for a change of emphasis. Someone at Shobnall Road in Burton could return the brewery to its former regime – happy landlords serving happy customers in happy pubs.

PUB NEWS Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Most of our readers will by now be aware that the Onslow in Southampton has shut. The pub was one of the best known in the city, if not the county, for its promotion of live music, especially the blues. Despite the outcry at the time, there was little chance of getting the owners, Dorset brewers Eldridge Pope, to change their mind. CAMRA has heard that an offer was made for the pub by someone who wanted to keep the live music going but this was refused since the brewers hope to get much more for the site if it is sold to a developer for the erection of flats.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that Eldridge Pope have invested a lot of money in improving facilities at one of the city's other major music pubs, the Joiner's Arms. Mint Burston and David Misselbrook are the new managers of the Joiners, having previously run the music side of the pub, which has improved markedly over the last few years. It is ironic that as the Onslow shut the Brook Inn, in Portswood, re-opened after refurbishment and started to attract some well known names in the music business. There are plans to expand the size of the pub if things go well. Overall, there are few local pubs offering good quality live music in sensible surroundings. A scratch rock band squeezed into the bar of a one-bar local does nothing to benefit either art or the pub trade!

It has been written many times over the past few years that comedy is the new rock and roll and developments in the pubs of Southampton would certainly seem to support this view. The Lizard Lounge has opened in Bedford Place at the site of the former Pizza Pan Italian restaurant, a site that was boarded up for a number of months. The upstairs room has hosted a number of comedy acts of, we are told "Channel 4 type humour." The number of real ales available varies but all are from the Whitbread stable. Talking Heads in Portswood continues with its Comedy Club and now features facilities for screening films. Also joining the comedy bandwagon is the Crown and Sceptre in Bevois Valley which hosts something called the Dungeon Comedy Club. You will not have failed to notice this if you have passed the pub at night for the blue neon lights are illuminating half of the city.

Southampton's other Crown and Sceptre, in Burgess Road, has undergone a £130,000 refurbishment and is now being run by the Drisco Pub Trading Company, which also runs the Gordon Arms. The pubs are still owned by Whitbread and the normal range of beers offered by that company are on sale. Another face-lift in Burgess Road is at the Gate where refurbished has left it less open-plan than before. It is now offering a guest beer from outside the Eldridge Pope range, as are a small number of the brewery's other tied houses.

Turpins in Terminus Terrace is to reopen as Celebration Plaza. Mike Osman and Matthew Le Tissier are set to spend £200,000 to convert the premises into a restaurant and nightclub. Let us hope it will be a worthwhile addition to the city's nightlife and not join the long list of short-lived ventures opened by footballers.

The Old Tap and Barrel in London Road has been renamed Butlers, a rather strange decision as the general trend is now (thank heavens!) away from plural plague. In the centre of Southampton two of the last of the plurals pubs have disappeared. The former Boogies in Vincent Walk is now a Marston's house, the Parkside Tavern. The decor is fairly pastiche pub standard with comfortable furnishings and lots of bric-à-brac but at least, for the city centre, it is a normal' pub offering a range of Marston's beers, albeit at prices higher and volumes sometimes lower than those usually found in the company's pubs.

The other perishing plural was Buds, which is now the Rat and Parrot. It is part of a chain of such pubs, all with the same name, run by Scottish and Newcastle, who also now run many of the former Watney pubs in our area. The facade has been greatly improved, with large windows looking onto the street. The inside has not really changed a great deal, with polished bare boards by the bar giving way to standard pub furnishings elsewhere. The beer range is somewhat uninspiring – Theakston's Bitter and XB, Directors and 6X although all are selling in high volumes. The managers, Tony and Pat Pocock, have remained with the pub, in fact they have been there since the pub was the Tom Tackle. One feature that has been remarked upon is the large number of staff, this enables the pub to offer table service to those who want it. At our first visit there was an emphasis on cocktails and champagne, which was compounded by the chap on the next table having a very loud conversation on his mobile 'phone with somebody called Andreus. Which will be the first pub in our area to ban mobile 'phones? The Rat and Parrot may enjoy even more trade if rumours of the eventual closure of the Victory, opposite the station, prove to be correct.

A "pub" that has been sold is the ruined Maypole at Hedge End. Associated Nursing Services want to build a home for up to 90 residents on the site that cost Southampton based Amplevine plc more than £M¼. A pub only recently re-opened, the Water Garden in Sholing (once the infamous Botany Bay) has gone up for auction, no details yet of its future. Another pub under threat of closure for many years, the Speckled Trout at New Milton, is reported to be safe for the time being but a revival of the housing market might make the owners, Hall and Woodhouse, change their minds. In New Milton the Tower Tavern has re-opened as Wellingtons (plurals again, aaagh ... !). Slightly smarter than before and with no handpumps in sight but the real ale is served directly from the casks behind the bar.

The Mayflower Hotel in Lymington underwent substantial changes at the end of last year under the guidance of new licensees David and Jennie Walker. The accommodation has been upgraded to include en-suite facilities whilst the bar area also has a new layout. There are plans to erect a marquee in the garden during the summer for those wishing to eat or drink outdoors. The Happy Cheese at Ashurst has also had major structural alterations which have totally changed the external appearance of the pub.

The new owners of the King Rufus at Eling are Alan and Marilyn Betts. The pub has been refurbished on a Victorian, country cottage theme, with flagstones, beams and numerous old pictures. Three Scottish and Newcastle beers were on offer when we visited: Theakston's Best and Old Peculier and Newcastle Exhibition, which is now available in cask conditioned form. There is a strong emphasis on food. Also emphasising the food trade is the recently re-opened Ship at Redbridge, now run by Tim and Elaine Mitchell. The 17th century pub features much bare brick and many beams on the low ceiling. Despite advertising "guest ales" the three beers at the time of our visit, Strong Country Bitter, Boddingtons and Pedigree, are standard Whitbread offerings.

"Guest beers" are also to be found at the Running Horse, Alresford, a Marston's pub where, as an experiment, the company is offering a range of guest ales in addition to its own products. The pub has been well refurbished and is run by Tony Dipple and Jo Barrier. The Mash Tun in Winchester also offers a wide range of beers and, after refurbishment, is under the new management of Peter Bennett and Gary Jones. A very different type of establishment in the city is Harvey's Wine Bar in the Square, by the cathedral. Gales ales are available at this new venture, which is run by Harvey Simmons and Gary Stickland. Another wine bar offering real ales, including Tanglefoot, is Latimers in Romsey, in the street of the same name. Recently a coffee house it is now nearer its former pub identity.

Two long-standing management couples have left Eastleigh. Paul and Yvonne Reid, at the Cricketers for five years, have left to take over the Crown at Bransgore and Harry and Val Livermore have left the Leigh after 17 years for the Netley Central Sports and Social Club.

It used to be common to hear people say that when they retire they would like to run a country pub. The hard work required to run a pub successfully has always made this a somewhat foolhardy aspiration but those following the lead of the Anchor Inn at Ropley would have the advantage of not having to travel far to collect their pension. A sub-post office has been opened in an outbuilding of the pub and is run by landlady Eve Wood, who used to run a post office counter in nearby Four Marks. We hasten to add that Eve and her husband Terry are still a long way from collecting their own pensions! Staying with the experientially enhanced, we see that Whitbread's "Golden Club" for the over fifty-fives, which we featured in the last Pub News has now been expanded to take in 40 pubs from Bognor Regis to Fordingbridge.

EFFY'S ROUND – a personal view Hop Press index

I normally go to the pub for a pint or two, but there are times when alcohol consumption is not suitable, so I look for the alternative of an acceptable non-alcoholic beverage.

The choice of zero and low alcohol drinks in almost all pubs is poor and in many dreadful. Ranging from the very chemical tasting LA brews such as Barbican and White Label to the very sweet soft drinks such as the colas (how can we let kids drink so much of this stuff?). Personally, in these circumstances, I find simple tonic water (without the gin) the best as its astringency is probably better suited to a beer drinker's palate. Even then, with too many, the quinine will keep you awake all night!

The other obvious problem with soft drinks is that they are clearly not good value for money. In some cases such as cola or natural spring water, without a penny of duty, they can cost as much as per pint as the best beer in the house. Not only the publicans are to blame for this as the market is dominated by a few big players and all down the line the great soft drink rip-off is in place – the only loser is the customer.

Over the past few years the sales of the low or non-alcohol beers and ciders have dropped as low as their alcohol content. Partly because they are seen as poor value and, more importantly, because they taste so bad. Even the un-lamented Red Barrel tasted better as did Watney's even worse Starlight, a beer that would have probably passed as a low alcohol brew!

You can get coffee in many pubs these days but even this is not so easy in the evening. The other problem is that, so often, it has been made in a percolator, first thing in the day; by the time you get it is hours old, stewed, stale and generally disgusting.

I, like many others, have an addiction to tea drinking. Not many pubs do pots of tea, but there is no reason why not. Drinking tea is as British as drinking cask ale, with almost as many varieties and styles to suit one's different moods throughout the day.

With modem instantaneous boiling water dispensers, tea could be served at any time of day, and coffee could be made fresh with a good instant or better still a plunger type cafetiere (perhaps served in a mug for the public bar ...!). Maybe the landlord could find another niche market by selling pots of tea to the Sally Ann when they are on their Friday night collecting rounds?

I know that every pub could not serve tea and good coffee, but the majority with food operations can. Why not afternoon teas? Going back our beloved malt, perhaps the evening list could include Ovaltine and Horlicks but the problem will then be that when it is my round I will be fast asleep! Finally, why has no one resurrected the Victorian temperance movements' concepts of hop bitters and birch beer (still surviving in the US as the pretty awful root beer)? Does any reader know if a genuine hop bitter is still made and if so where it can be obtained?

Hop Press issue number 39 – Spring 1995

Editor: Pat O'Neill
1 Surbiton Road
SO50 4HY
01703 642246

© CAMRA Ltd. 1995