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The Sadness Of The Closed Pub

What is happening to our classic boozers?

Written by . Published on December 3rd 2013.

The Sadness Of The Closed Pub

IT'S ALWAYS sad when a pub closes.

Perhaps it feels so sad when a pub closes, because that sadness is tinged with guilt.

New bars may come and go, but pubs are something different; pubs have a sense of history. You expect to see these stalwarts of a bygone age standing fast against the tide of history, providing a traditional respite from the encroachments of a frenetic modern world.

All things must pass, however, and in today’s straitened times, many pubs must diversify just to survive. None a better example of this than the teams at The Black Lion on Chapel Street and the Lass O’Gowrie on Charles Street.

Despite this, Manchester has seen a spate of pub closures recently. And not just any old lets-stick-at-it pubs, the sort of pubs who have really grasped the idea of offering something more than just a pint of lager.

Bonny LassBonny Lass

The Black Lion closed on Saturday 23 November. With its crescent-shaped building, The Black Lion is an imposing edifice on the corner of Chapel Street and Blackfriars, just over the bridge into Salford. It certainly offers (or, indeed, offered) more than just a pint of lager and a packet of crisps. Poetry readings, quizzes, left-field film screenings, theatre and other spoken-word events were just some of the elements that made The Black Lion more than just a bog-standard boozer.

But it is no more. At the moment, it seems The Black Lion has roared for the last time.

Enterprise Inns, the owner, were unavailable for comment about its closure.

The events are being shipped off to The Eagle for the time being, just down the road on Collier Street. But the closure of somewhere that was more than just a pub, more of a community arts hub with a good pub to boot, leaves a hole in Manchester’s arts scene.

A hole that will not be filled by the closure of other venues such as Jabez Clegg.

Jabez Clegg has been getting students drunk and dancing for decades, and although there are many places that could claim the same, they don’t all get people laughing too. Jabez Clegg has played host to XS Malarkey, the popular comedy night which has been lauded to the heavens by everyone from The Metro to The Guardian for the past year or so.


Jabez CleggJabez Clegg

However, the building has been sold off to the University of Manchester as they press ahead with their £1 billion development plan to create a world-class campus. It hasn’t been confirmed, but it is likely that Jabez Clegg will be part of a biomedical campus, so future students will be able to diagnose atrophied livers rather than creating them.

Another closure, another arts event temporarily homeless, another wound to Manchester’s arts scene.

XS Malarkey promises to return in the New Year, re-housed and rejuvenated in a new venue. Watch this space for details.

Changes are also afoot at the Lass O’Gowrie. Although Greene King steadfastly maintain: “It is business as usual at the pub with extended opening hours from Monday 2 December.”

The current team, however, have said they will be leaving in early January. Despite this, Greene King insist their previous statement still stands.

It seems a shame for drinkers, but also a shame for Dr Who enthusiasts and retro gaming hobbyists. What other pub caters to such niche interests? Not to mention all the quizzes, open mic nights, book clubs and fringe theatre events. Let’s hope the new folks will continue to run a great pub with all the unusual trimmings that make it such a gem.

It's a sad affair when a pub closes, but particularly so because that sadness is often tinged with guilt.

If we want to preserve the pubs with character we love so much and all the arts events and interesting opportunities they offer, maybe we should get out there and support them. Start whining into our pints whilst ensconced in the snug, rather than sulking on the sofa with a discounted supermarket six pack.

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousDecember 3rd 2013.

"It seems a shame for drinkers, but also a shame for Dr. Who enthusiasts and retro gaming hobbyists. What other pub caters to such niche interests? " NEver been to the Fab Cafe then?

AnonymousDecember 3rd 2013.

'Poetry readings, quizzes, left-field film screenings, theatre and other spoken-word events were just some of the elements that made The Black Lion more than just a bog-standard boozer.' All those things would put me off going in a pub.

J Mark DoddsDecember 4th 2013.

What's happening to classic boozers is the Great British Pubco Scam. Thieving pubco's have run their tied lease estates into the ground for the last twenty five years. Pubco's rip off their tenants with high rents and beer prices that are double open market cost. They bankrupt their lessees, churn them again, and again, and asset strip their pubs until they rot into the ground, chronically underinvested, dilapidated and broken and them they sell them off and use the proceeds to pay interest on the gargantuan loans they raised to buy the pubs in the first place. See @FairDeal4YourLocal and www.fairdealforyourlocal.com…

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 4th 2013.

A lot of truth in this, although the days of these rip-off pubs are numbered I think. These bland, expensive pubs are the places most vulnerable to the stay at home drinking trend and the robbing pubcos must know it deep down. You'd have to be a mug to touch one of their pubs, even one so lovely on the outside as the Lass.

AnonymousDecember 6th 2013.

Sometimes pubs close because the operators stop selling beer and let the place deteriorate into a mucky grime-hole. Do that and not even Dr Who can save you.

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