FEATURE: How can Worksop pubs buck trend of failing boozers?

The Ashley in Worksop was named as overall winners of Nottinghamshire Best Bar None
The Ashley in Worksop was named as overall winners of Nottinghamshire Best Bar None

According to The British Pub Association, up to 29 pubs close every week in the UK, meaning there are 1.500 fewer pubs open every year.

In 1982, there were 67.800 boozers – that figure is now below 50,000.

Jo Blakemore (Landlord, The Ashley Hotel), Charles Blakemore (Landlord, The Ashley Hotel) and Paddy Tipping (Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire).

Jo Blakemore (Landlord, The Ashley Hotel), Charles Blakemore (Landlord, The Ashley Hotel) and Paddy Tipping (Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire).

So why is that?

Critics state high rents, while others say people choose to stay away due to the price of alcohol, the smoking ban, breathalysing on entry and wanting to lead a more healthier lifestyle.

Earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics reported that levels of binge-drinking has fallen in young adults, with more than a fifth of adults in the UK now saying they do not drink at all.

However, if you venture out on a Saturday night in town, you will be hard-pressed to find a place where you do not have to queue for a drink.

The Swan Inn, Castle Street, Worksop is under new management who have refurbished the pub, pictured are from left Elizabeth Fenn, Harry Taylor and bar staff Drew Williamson

The Swan Inn, Castle Street, Worksop is under new management who have refurbished the pub, pictured are from left Elizabeth Fenn, Harry Taylor and bar staff Drew Williamson

Could this mean people are still going out but not drinking as much?

Perhaps.

It is no secret that younger people buy cheap booze from supermarkets and ‘pre-load’ before heading out.

“There will always be a place for pubs in the community,” said Michelle Stowell-Ng, licensee at The Unicorn, on Bridge Street, Worksop.

The Swan Inn, Castle Street, Worksop is under new management who have refurbished the pub, pictured are Harry Taylor and Elizabeth Fenn

The Swan Inn, Castle Street, Worksop is under new management who have refurbished the pub, pictured are Harry Taylor and Elizabeth Fenn

“It is just different pubs for different needs.”

Most pubs now have to offer much more than just being a place to drink, with many focusing just as much on food and entertainment.

The Unicorn does not allow children in, and does not sell food, but it has just gained a place in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide 2016.

“Town centre pubs can offer a lot more in terms of pricing, people can also watch the horse racing or sport and go to the bookies,” Michelle said.

The Unicorn, have attained a placing in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2016   L>R Michael Lantieri, John Darb, Michelle Stowell-Ng Licencee Helen Packard,

The Unicorn, have attained a placing in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2016 L>R Michael Lantieri, John Darb, Michelle Stowell-Ng Licencee Helen Packard,

“The smaller pubs cannot compete with the likes of JD Wetherspoon because of its pulling power.”

So how do you compete against the big pub chains?

“It is not that difficult,” Michelle said. “We have found a happy medium. We are on a smaller pricing band and avoid price wars.”

Like many town centres, the pub scene is forever changing, with premises changing ownership throughout the year, which can have a knock-on effect for everyone else.

Michelle said: “With the Queen’s Head closing, that has had a big effect on us.

“There is not that circuit that there used to be.

“I still think there are many years ahead for pubs.”

The new kids on the block are Harry Taylor and his partner Elizabeth Fenn, who have just taken over The Swan Inn, on Castle Street, after a major refurbishment.

The pair have about 12 years of experience between them of working in pubs, although this is there first shot at managing one.

“We have a responsibility to get people out, but it should not be so much hard work,” Harry said.

“You have to create a pub that people want to go to, you have got to do something different.

“Everywhere you go is just the same, we want to have a community pub with good beer and food.

“It is not surprising to hear that so many pubs are closing, it is incredibly negative.

“You are lucky if you are making profit.

“Something different needs to be done.

It is not all doom and gloom, though, as The Unicorn are not the only Worksop pub to have recently celebrated a top award.

The Ashley, on Carlton Road, has just been crowned the overall winner of Nottinghamshire Best Bar None, which is a scheme designed to encourage licensees to continually improve standards.

Charles Blakemore, who manages The Ashley with his wife, Joanne, said: “As with any Hungry Horse pub we pride ourselves on being family-friendly, welcoming and part of the local community where anyone can come to enjoy a drink and some food in a safe environment.

“The team works hard every day to makes sure all our customers enjoy the best experience possible whenever they visit and to be recognised for all of this and to be able to call ourselves the Best Bar None out of so many great pubs in Nottinghamshire is brilliant.”

Another pub under new management in Worksop is the Corner House, on Bridge Place.

Boss Rob Hall has taken a different approach to try to attract revellers, with a number of reality television stars attending specially organised nights to chat to drinkers and mingle.

If the statistics are correct, Worksop could soon have only a small number of pubs.

However, from speaking to the people who give every ounce of energy to make them work, there is no need to go and drown our sorrows just yet.

n What do you think? Email newsroom@worksop-guardian.co.uk