Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - February 2004

* Live and Let Live *

Tolerance is a virtue much needed by pubgoers

I RECEIVED a report in tones of disgust of how a group of friends had turned up at a well-known city centre pub at twenty to eleven on a Friday night, only to find the doors firmly shut, even though there were people drinking inside. “How can CAMRA give any support to pubs that treat customers with such contempt?” But it didn’t seem too unreasonable to me – why shouldn’t the regulars who have been in the pub most of the evening be spared invasions from rowdy groups just before last orders?

If you couldn’t give recognition to any pubs that ever offended potential customers, you’d end up with little apart from a handful of the less boisterous Wetherspoons. Anywhere that banned people in hats, or had a rude landlord, or smelly toilets, or sometimes tolerated the bar staff smoking in the hatchway, or refused to admit motorcyclists, would have to be excluded from every pub guide. Indeed, if you combined the pubs that offer a dusty welcome to families with those that break the law by allowing children in bar areas, you’d probably rule out every single pub in the country. It might even be said that no pub is truly good unless someone can’t stand the place.

* Millers' Kitchen *

The bar staff who find any excuse not to serve customers

I WAS STANDING at the bar of a well-known chain pub at a busy time when it was taking up to five minutes to get served. Yet, on the other side of a counter, a girl was occupying herself moving glasses from one shelf to another, apparently oblivious of the hordes of thirsty punters. It’s impossible to believe that job couldn’t have waited until later. Some pub staff, especially at the younger end of the scale, seem to do their utmost to avoid actually serving customers - slicing lemons or restocking the fridge always seems a far better option. The record I’ve spotted is eight members of staff milling around behind a bar, and only one doing anything that involved serving drinks.

It’s also interesting how this phenomenon appears to be almost exclusively confined to themed outlets and managed pubs. When your own livelihood depends on it, you rarely have any trouble understanding the concept of customer satisfaction.

* The Effingham Arms *

Robust language is only appropriate in a robust environment

IF YOU'RE a frequent pubgoer, it doesn’t do to be a shrinking violet. Robust language and forthright opinions are commonplace, but what’s acceptable at one place and time might not go down too well across the board. One Sunday lunchtime I was in what can only be described as a rather genteel pub, when a group of lads came in to have a meal. They proceeded to engage in a conversation that nobody else in the room could have failed to overhear, liberally laced with four-letter words and including detailed accounts of their sordid holiday exploits that left little to the imagination. They weren’t at all threatening, and this was nothing that would have been out of place in a city centre at ten o’clock on Friday night, but in an environment where there were pensioners just wanting a quiet drink, and families eating lunch with children, it was distinctly jarring.

Surely in a situation like this the old-fashioned landlord would have come into his own with a a well-timed intervention of “come on lads, mind your language!”

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