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The Other Side of Hospitality....

The impact of bad weather. Charity run by an ex-landlord. The thoughts of a newly-recruited bar keep. Two weeks on since pubs re-opened on an outdoors-only basis, here are a few stories from a special corner of Yorkshire.... We have been lucky, very lucky. Since the pubs could re-open on an outdoor service basis from the 12th of April, the weather has been generally unseasonably settled and sunny, with only the sharp drop in temperature from early evening serving as a reminder that we are actually in early spring. And so it was a timely and sobering reminder when a huge deluge hit one evening last week that running a hospitality business based on an outside-only model at a time of year when there are potential heavy showers and plunging temperatures in the mix was never going to be all beer and skittles.  And that's even if you are sitting in a government-permitted blow-through marquee next to a heater as I discovered last Tuesday when I was enjoying a pint at the Dusty Miller near
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Returning To The Roost....

Sunny weather, smiles, and much relief have been very much in evidence as pubs opened their doors - or garden gates - to let customers on to their premises for the first time in months. It is not a complete return to normality, but this first step has unleashed a collective sense of pleasure at being able to meet up with others once again.... Last weekend around these parts, we had had snow and low temperatures which did not bode well for the outside opening of the first pubs last Monday, 12th April. Fortune was to smile though on the brave pub goer, and whilst it was not particularly warm, the sun was shining and inviting. Tables were waiting in yards and beer gardens, car parks and anticipation, marquees and gazebos on stand-by, bunting hung, staff primed and ready to go. It has been a desperately hard time for the hospitality sector and those that could were determined to make the most of the chance to re-open. And the pubs rose to the occasion. Splendidly. Glad to see customers aga

Waiting and Anticipating....

There has been a growing and almost palpable sense of anticipation as the days wind down to the re-opening of pubs for outdoor sales. Many places have adapted existing outside space, some have hired marquees, some have extended beer gardens. The scene is almost set - can this really be the beginning of the end of the lockdown? Here's a few thoughts.... Beer deliveries returning this week to the Grayston Unity, Halifax I have to admit, I am getting quite excited. Giddy, almost, at the prospect of the first pubs finally opening for service next week for the first time in these parts since last Autumn. Yes, it will only be a few of them, and it will be outside only for a few weeks, but it is a return of sorts. And I can't wait.  And I think this time around, compared to last summer, the general mood is more determined, less hesitant, more assured. Yes, there is bound to be some hesitation, some fears, but the efforts of many places in updating or expanding beer gardens, creating s

The Best Buffet Bar None....

One place I am definitely looking forward to visiting again when they re-open is the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge. And whilst it will be great to pay a visit as soon as it is possible, that first visit back to the famous bar on the Manchester Piccadilly to Huddersfield trans-Pennine route will no doubt stir up in me a huge dose of mixed emotions.... Stalybridge Buffet Bar is one of the few remaining Victorian railway station buffet bars left in the country, and is probably the best-known. I started visiting the bar regularly in 2006, when my job meant I was working about a mile and a half away in Hyde. Back in those days, the bar was owned by John Hesketh, who had spotted the potential of the rambling old Victorian station buffet as a real ale mecca. It had originally opened in 1885, and had meandered on over the years quietly serving customers on the trans-Pennine route, but back then it was not known for its beer. John's idea of a good selection of real ales in an atmospheric bar cr

A Pint at The Free Trade....

If the so-called roadmap out of the country's lockdown comes to fruition, pubs will be able to open to serve customers outside from April 12th, and then welcome them inside from May 17th. Here is one place I am really looking forward to calling in again.... The Free Trade Inn in Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a solid-looking, brick wedge of a pub situated in a lofty position overlooking the River Tyne. It is one place I cannot wait to call in again, not least because when I last re-visited the city in July 2020, the pub had decided that it would simply not be possible or practical for them to open given the restricted number of customers they could accommodate due to social distancing requirements. And so, as I walked along the Quayside towards Ouseburn in the warm sunshine one afternoon, I noticed that as the pub came nearer into view, the beer garden on the slope below was unusually empty, with the Free Trade itself a forlorn sight, alone and seemingly abandoned on its eyrie above. So my

Ramblings From The Colne Valley....

Another tale from the wastes of lockdown, featuring an afternoon's wander along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in the Colne Valley, and assorted ramblings about beer, pubs, and this and that.... The weather had been brighter and warmer of late, the days beginning to stretch out ever so much, and with me having had my first jab and talk of roadmaps and pandemic restrictions gradually easing, I felt bold enough to venture a little further afield for my weekly walk. It was only 8 miles or so from home, but the Colne Valley felt like a new world. I walked the towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal from Slaithwaite, as I had done last spring as far as Marsden, but this time I carried on further to Tunnel End. Here the towpath stops as the canal and the adjacent railway line disappear abruptly into the Pennine hillside. The walk was by default muddy, but also quite wet underfoot in parts with the canal even spilling on to the path here and there, and so, along with an assortment of fell

Final Chapter for The Jolly Angler....

Lockdown has been bad for all of those of us that like to visit pubs. But spare a thought for the regulars of The Jolly Angler, a pub tucked away amongst the towering developments and industrial units behind Manchester's Piccadilly Station. When the pubs do finally get to open up again, the Jolly Angler will sadly not be amongst them, the pub having become yet another victim of the city's rapacious development. And so there goes another traditional pub and a part of the city's glorious pub history. Here are my thoughts, plus a few other bits and pieces.... I first visited the Jolly Angler when I lived in Manchester in the 1970's. A basic Hyde's tied house situated on a street-corner between Piccadilly Station and Great Ancoats Street, it had a real Irish atmosphere to it. Steered by a long-disappeared guide to all of the pubs in and around the city centre, we had stumbled upon it one evening, a group of long-haired students well away from the regular haunts around O