Some Brummie pubs are an institution and 129 – The Bull Ring Tavern B5 6BH is one of them. This boozer that is situated at the back of what is left of Birmingham’s market area could be described as ‘the gateway to the Bullring’
I’m pretty sure the council’s gleaming new vision of Birmingham that has sprung up with the arrival of Selfridges, Grand Central Station, The Cube, The Mailbox and all the assorted restaurants such as Purnell’s, Jamie Oliver’s and the fantastically named Nosh and Quaff would like to leave behind pubs such as The Bull Ring Tavern.
It is traditionally the market traders pub but these markets have been under the cosh for a while now as the wholesale market have been moved out to industrial estate in WItton as part of the city’s £1billion transformation of this 34-acre site.
The Smithfield project being run in conjunction with Cushman & Wakefield means a large part of the city’s history will disappear although, as Councillor John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Smithfield is without doubt one of the most exciting regeneration opportunities in Birmingham for years and will turn the area currently occupied by the wholesale markets into an exciting and vibrant addition to the city centre.
“Crucially, Smithfield will deliver jobs, homes, and modern public spaces and play a crucial part in the ongoing transformation of the Southern Gateway Area.”
Peter de Birmingham obtained a royal charter to hold a market at his castle way back in 1166 and the market developed in the 1700s but, not to worry, progress is always good and Birmingham has a history of knocking down, replacing with structures (think Malin’s Brutalist architecture in the 1960s) and then ripping it all down again.
The rag market is still there along with the open market and indoor market but it’s not quite the draw it once was.
However, I sincerely hope characters such as the bloke trying to sell me a jumper as I walked past his stall don’t disappear from Birmingham city centre.
“Only £3 mate; this is a genuine Marks and Spencer’s jumper…the finest quality.” How I refused I’ll never know!
However, the Smithfield project is planning to bring a lot of new homes to the area although I’m not sure how many of the locals will be popping into the Bull Ring Tavern for a pint.
If you want to see a slice of Brummie market life then this is arguably the last place left you will find it. It’s had a chequered history but is back open again and is full of old skool Brummies.
There was plenty of Stone Island on show and some unbelievable fashion faux pas but also a lot of blue and white striped bags from the market and shopping trolleys along with the biggest sports screen I have seen in a pub for a while.
Bearing in mind this was Saturday afternoon at 1.30pm I was surprised to see a total of four doormen across two entrances in Hi Viz jackets and a policy of you must enter through one door and leave through another!
Plastic glasses for my pint of Keg Golden Ale (Open Gate – that’s St James’s Gate to all and sundry) and the fact a bloke had to have his bottle of Sol in a plastic glass led me to believe this place still hasn’t shaken off its past fully!
My pint was only £2.50 and at those prices, you are always going to attract punters in as my choice of beer was certainly not the cheapest on the menu.
I enjoyed this pub and there was no edge to the place at that time but, I recognised one of the doormen who used to be a colleague of mine and he gave me a warts ‘n’ all account.
Apparently the gaffer of the pub is trying to stamp out any trouble and working with police has been told to serve in plastic glasses and baseball caps are also banned whilst you can only enter through one door and leave through another.
This has met with partial success as, according to my doorman pal, someone causing trouble had some of his ear removed by another hungry punter in the recent past!
One of the punters wasn’t happy with the ‘in through one door out by another’ policy and had a lengthy debate with the doormen but agreed to leave via the suggested exit.
However, don’t get me wrong, this place was a bit like a Wetherspoons but without the choice of ale and it was clean and tidy inside with the added bonus of live sport for punters.
I can see why it attracts a lively crowd as it is situated by the markets, has cheap and cheerful prices on its drinks and has wall to wall sport on the TV.
Apparently, my doorman pal informed me it used to be heaving when a DJ was on but, at present, DJs are off the agenda.
Nonetheless, this had a busy trade and lots of people in bearing in mind the time of day and I would genuinely like this place to succeed. It’s open all day every day and that is surely a bonus in the modern era.
There will still be market of sorts when Smithfield has finished its gigantic regeneration plan and it would be good to see The Bull Ring Tavern still going strong with a clientele that attracts all areas of society not just the Brummie bourgeoisie.