With around 125 pubs permanently lost in our branch area in the past 10 years it is encouraging when a new pub comes along. But during the last quarter two new pubs have appeared in the city of Bristol. While the Old Market Assembly is a conversion of the former nightclub Flamingos, the Draper's Arms on Horfield's Gloucester Road is a brand new licensed premises - and Bristol's first dedicated micropub to boot. Occupying a space which had become a sad and sorry closed retail unit it had been a draper's shop not so long ago. And as evidence that the public enjoy a no frills pub with a choice of drinks that includes no national brands and no forced entertainment such as music and gaming machines, the pub is extremely popular and has settled in very quickly due in no small part to its excellent hosts, good décor and engaging conversation along with the local ale and cider. By contrast the Old Market Assembly does have all the thrills. A kitchen, a stage, mezzanine floor - and a theatre called The Wardrobe. Four local real ale hand pumps are arranged on the smart bar counter alongside the ciders and lagers offered from keg fonts. The open kitchen and servery tempts diners with its clean look and when the diners have had their fill the stage comes alive on entertainment nights. The mezzanine floor offers an alternative vista of the happenings below and a bit of space should you need it. It is run by the same people as at No1 Harbourside and the Canteen and it gives a new dimension to the dynamic of the Old Market scene.
The Palace Hotel in Old Market has taken out its hand pump. Real ale is available from micro-cask containers so ask what is on before you order. More central the former Elephant in St. Nicolas Street is now the Boardroom. This new European bar and dining concept is aimed at social grazers who are looking for seasonal light dishes alongside local ciders, craft beers and wines. Change has also taken place at the former Velindra in Redcliffe, now The Nook café bar it has been completely made over but we have not got any information on it at the time of this article going to press. Please take a look and let us know what you think!
Sadly I have to report that the popular Port of Call in Clifton closed at the start of the year and is 'To Let'. In Chandos Road, Redland popular former Bristol publican Mark Farrell has made an application to convert a closed shop into Bristol's second full-blown micropub. It would be great to see a micropub in this location especially as there is a bit of a gap in pubs in this locale. We wish Mark all the best with this venture. Back on Gloucester Road the former Foresters has re-opened as the Gloucester Road Ale House under the ownership of the Wickwar Wessex Brewing & Pub Company and has its trading area over two floors with a bar on each. Cask and craft beers, ciders and a full range of wet offerings along with a diverse menu can be found.
The recently refurbished Black Horse at Redfield is open but has been sold - subject to contract by Fleurets after being offered at £195,000. The Chequers at Kingswood has a planning application from Tesco. Local residents fought a good battle to quash a similar scenario a year or so ago but Enterprise Inns and Tesco seem intent to cause further irritation a second time around. For sale with James A Baker is the White Hart at Whitehall, this former Courage and Bass outlet closed earlier in 2015. A surprise closure has occurred at Café Des Amies on the Whitehall Road, the good news is though, that it is re-locating to Easton Community Centre to open mid-March.
In the south of the city the smart corner building in Bedminster that is the Albert has been closed for a little while and has undergone a refurbishment as the Albert Lounge. Residents local to the Imp in Southville are passionate about their pub. It closed on 30th January and they want it back, so they are mounting a strong campaign which includes the seeking of registration of the Imp as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
In Warmley the Station Master is now surrounded in scaffolding but its fate is not apparent but we understand that it may be set for demolition. Mystery continues to surround the Cherry Tree in Oldland Common. Having suddenly closed back in the autumn high fencing was erected and it probably changed hands after being offered for sale. There is now a planning application to develop the building into seven apartments with complete loss of the pub. This pub was very popular in the recent past and deserves to be once again. The Tennis Court Innat Kingswood remains closed and inactive. An application to list this pub as an ACV was rejected by South Gloucestershire Council in 2015 but there is a great deal of local support for it to return as a community pub and the Bristol Pubs Group whole heartedly backs this campaign. The owners of a pub that has been awarded ACV status have declared a wish to sell. The King William IV at Hallen in South Gloucestershire is the only pub for some distance, the nearest one being the Blaise Inn over the boundary in Bristol but it is a three mile journey to the nearest South Gloucestershire pub. Enterprise Inns, owners of the long closed White Horse in Hambrook, have been successful in gaining planning permission for new signage for this Grade II listed building. We will be pleased to see this popular and formerly well-used pub back in business.
In BANES the Pioneer in Keynsham is scaffolded. This pub has been closed for a couple of years but we don't know whether this latest progression is in favour of pub use. The Jolly Sailor at Saltford has new owners who are fully intending that it is business as usual under their ownership and are building upon the popularity that the pub has long enjoyed. In Chew Magna the Queen's Arms has been re-opened by Sally Valentine and her husband following a refurbishment at the back end of last year. Still Wadworth owned, local beer Butcombe Bitter is presented alongside Wadworth staples and seasonal ales while the restaurant accommodates those that wish to dine. Great news at Redhill where the Darlington Arms is under new ownership having been extensively refurbished where there appears to be something-for-everyone, with ales from regionals and local breweries alongside food, pub games and comfy seating. This pub has very often featured in this column with trepidation and fear that it could be lost forever. Now it has a great foundation for a prosperous future. Unfortunately the news at the Rising Sun at Backwell is that following closure its owner Punch Taverns is said to be considering redevelopment of the site, including the pub, into a mix of apartments and houses. Locals are campaigning against the plan and would like to see a new owner turn the place into a successful community-friendly pub business. The Rising Sun is for sale at a whopping £600,000. There are two other pubs in Backwell but one of those, the New Inn, is closed and has had plans for redevelopment rejected for now. Only the food led George would remain in Backwell if the Rising Sun and New Inn were to be lost.
If you're shopping in Cabot Circus or Broadmead and you fancy a beer then you may be a bit miffed that you need to leave the shopping area in order to get a decent pint. But consider this: when I started drinking the immediate choice around the shopping area was as follows;
Note that all the comments here are from my own memory so corrections are welcome! And beware, keg beer back then was definitely NOT akin to the new wave that it is now under its 'craft' moniker.Mike Jackson, for the Bristol Pubs Group
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