You remember those halcyon days of three terrestrial television channels and the only live sport on was Wimbledon, the FA Cup and the Grand National?
People went to watch their local community football team and pubs only opened for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon and often shut in the afternoon in the week?
Apparently, back in the day, pubs were a bigger attraction as smoking was on the agenda, the health police weren’t as prevalent and there was arguably less competition for your hard earned cash.
Whether or not all of that is true or just looking back through rose-tinted spectacles is pure speculation but I am pretty sure the a la carte pubs were Berni Inns!
Of course globalisation, the drive to unite and replicate everyone else and a whole host of factors have meant that stand alone pubs, outside of town centres, are becoming, with a few honourable exceptions, increasingly rare.
With pub closures still taking place at an alarming rate it is definitely a case of survival of the fittest and working out how you can stay afloat in 2018.
Food is inevitably a big part of that and, particularly for village and isolated pubs; they need to offer themselves as a ‘destination venue.’
153 – The Gelsmoor – LE67 8HP is a fine example of a boozer that is regarded in that category as it is ‘the home of the original steak on the stone.’ Based in Griffydam, which is a tiny hamlet near Worthington and Coleorton and doesn’t always appear on road maps (!) its name derives from a sacred water spring (apparently).
Other than that I can’t tell you much about Griffydam apart from that it also used to have a nightclub (really!) called The Travellers Rest that shut down about 15 years ago.
I tell you what The Gelsmoor does have though and that is an army of three waitresses ready to pounce and send you towards your table when you arrive. I had to check if they were happy for me to have a drink without any food and it was fine and I even found a group of four other drinkers.
(four other drinkers – not in this picture!)
This is a pub, and very smart it is too, but is set up for diners and in order for The Gelsmoor to survive I reckon this is the only way.
Having said that I had a belting pint of house badged Gelsmoor Gold (Tollgate) for £3.25 and the muzak in the background was very much Brand New Heavies and Beverley Knight.
This wasn’t full on a Thursday evening by any stretch of the imagination but there were also punters eating in the restaurant (all the pub) and this place is clearly surviving and has found its niche in a congested market.
(surprisingly low key entrance)
As has 154 – The George And Dragon LE67 8UH, albeit in a slightly different market. This roadside boozer in Thringstone has a restaurant as well but is still very much a bar at the front of the pub.
It’s set on a massive site and therefore has a big beer garden and shop on the right as you walk inside but it also has Sky sports on and Jim White was working himself into a frenzy regarding Phil Neville’s appointment as the manager for the England women’s team, along with beermats and a drinker’s zone.
Don’t get me wrong this is food led (stone baked pizza are its niche) as village pubs need to be and this place will pick up plenty of passing trade, as it’s a sprawling metropolis compared to Griffydam.
I popped in here at around 5.30 and was joined by the post work drinks crowd and that tells me this is still a local of sorts but, with most people returning to their cars it is only ever going to be one pint.
Mine was good quality Landlord (Timothy Taylor’s) and there was a classic pub conversation between two blokes who were obviously acquainted but not particularly bosom buddies.
There was a pair of boys in workers boots at the bar and a ‘suit’ walked in and was asked “are you still an angry man?” “No, I’m really happy now,” “You were always really angry when I worked with you,” “No I wasn’t” (awkward silence)… a bit more verbal sparring followed “what car are you driving now?” “Why?” “I bet it’s big” “It’s a f****** Merc.” “I knew it” …”Do you remember that good looking bloke who used to work with us,” “Who” “ The bloke from Cannock” “He wasn’t good looking” “I might be thinking of someone else” “Maybe, good to catch up again!”
There was definitely a pecking order to the conversation of a gaffer and employee but it was most definitely a pub conversation and The George And Dragon was more ‘pub’ based than the aforementioned Gelsmoor.
However, both seem to have found a niche in the Leicestershire market as the nearby New Inn in Peggs Green has arguably boxed off the good old fashioned boozers bar and therefore good food, good service (the barmaid was very friendly) and a bit of atmosphere mean you can survive in 2018.