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The Lantern: A New Light Shines in Halifax....

Halifax's latest real ale bar and music venue opens as cask ale comes to the supermarket....

Last weekend saw the long-awaited opening of the Lantern in Halifax, brought to you by the guys behind the highly-successful Alexandra. I popped along with our Tom and Annie on Friday night to give it the once over.

We had a quick pint at the always reliable Grayston Unity before heading across town. We could hear some music as we turned the corner into Alexandra Street. It was coming from upstairs at The Lantern, finally unveiled from behind the scaffolding and displaying its shiny new tiled exterior. A few people were milling outside as we went inside to the new bar. The place - which had only opened a couple of hours earlier - smelt new, and like us plenty of familiar faces were in there trying it out. On the bar, which was doing a roaring trade, there were 4 handpumps and taps. We went for a pint of Blonde Star from Anarchy Brewing, which was on fine form. The atmosphere was buzzing.

We decided that we would pop upstairs and check out the band for a couple of numbers. We took our beer upstairs, having switched from glass to plastic, and discovered there was another similar size bar up there, with both real ale and taps available as well. Things were looking good! The band hadn't quite started, but having wandered down to the front, we didn't have long to wait before the five-piece Avalanche Party emerged from the door at the side of the stage. They immediately launched into a ferocious, frenetic, and feral wall of garage-punk which set the tone and kept us there for their 40 minute set. Lead singer Jordan stripped to the waist, grabbed the microphone, and wandered into the audience on several occasions, even ending up sat on the bar at one point, with no let-up in the sound. Apart from him banging into me at one point, meaning I spilt some of my precious Blonde Star, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and took me back to my days watching punk bands in the late 70's/early 80's. As we were leaving I had a brief chat with the band as they grabbed a post-gig cigarette, and it turns out they originate from the wilds of the North Yorkshire Moors - echoing the statement on their website "nobody comes from where we come from".

It was a great start for The Lantern, the atmosphere was really good, the beer on the night was superb, the music was great -although we didn't stick around for the tunes from Radio X DJ John Kennedy - and everyone I spoke to seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Someone did say the stage was a bit low down so visibility at the back was a bit restricted, but overall it was all pretty positive, and congratulations to Ben and Martin on following their dream of creating a brand new, 150-capacity music venue for Halifax. There are plenty more gigs coming up, touching several points on the musical spectrum, but even if you just fancy calling in for a drink, the downstairs bar is well worth a visit.
There has been much debate and comment this week about the appearance of a hand pump at the Morrisons store in Guiseley. Well, this is a novel idea, but despite the hysterical fears that this will spell the end of the pub in some quarters, I can't see this in itself being anything other than a novelty. OK, it has no doubt drawn a fair number of curious visitors - including a couple of friends from west of the Pennines - but once the fuss dies down I am sure it will just be the odd visitor on a shopping trip. Morrisons were selling Saltaire Blonde - a beer that never fails to disappoint in my opinion - and I don't think that the excellent Coopers just across the road has anything to worry about.

Where the supermarkets have been hitting pubs for years as we all know has been the cheap prices at which they have been selling alcohol. This has fuelled the arguments of the anti-drink protagonists that the price of alcohol has been too low, and this week, after 5 years of arguments and legal challenges, Scotland became the first country in the world to approve a minimum price per unit of alcohol. OK, part of the local problem there has been a liking in cities like Glasgow for 'Bucky', or Buckfast Tonic Wine, a cheap 15% fortified wine, produced ironically by the monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, but the impact of this ruling will not differentiate between different purchase points. So a well-run pub or bar, where responsible drinking and behaviour is the norm, but who have all the costs of operating their business that the supermarkets don't have, will be subject to the same requirement. The price has been set at 50p per unit, but there is nothing to say that this won't go up in the future. Yes, it will no doubt hit the supermarkets to some degree, but it will hit the pub sector even more. Nobody can argue against any attempts to reduce the devastation that can be caused by alcohol dependency, but surely it could have been introduced with a lower rate for the on-trade who already have higher costs than the supermarkets. No doubt other governments around the world will be monitoring the success of the ruling, and weighing up the pros and cons of bringing it in themselves.

And that, in my opinion, poses a greater threat to our pubs and bars....

Avalanche Party at The Lantern, Halifax


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