Sunday, 29 December 2013

No Longer Welcome

Over Christmas I was reminded of one of the very first blog posts I wrote. The post was written back in 2008, and was on the subject of dogs in pubs. The catalyst which jogged my memory was us looking after a chocolate Labrador, belonging to Eileen’s niece, for a few days between Christmas and New Year.  On a couple of occasions, when the weather was fine, I took said Labrador, whose name is Ellie by the way, for a walk.

We live on the edge of town and once you get beyond the busy mini-bypass there are some nice walks. Sunday was a particularly fine and bright day, (a welcome change after all the wind and rain we’ve had), so I walked Ellie right up to Somerhill; a large Victorian pile that was formerly the manor house for the area of south Tonbridge where we live, but is now a fee-paying school. As is often the case with such grandiose houses, Somerhill is surrounded by parkland and is set high up on a ridge, overlooking an ornamental lake. It is quite a climb up to the house, and despite the cool temperatures, both me and Ellie were quite warm by the time we reached the top.

The views from just below the house are quite spectacular, sweeping right across the town and away to the Greensand ridge in the distance. I kept thinking the spot would be an ideal place for a watering hole, in fact had this been somewhere like Bavaria, then I’m pretty certain some enterprising soul would have opened a bar-cum-restaurant. Not in England though, especially where there is a school in the vicinity, but on the way back I couldn’t get the thought of a thirst quenching pint of bitter, and a nice cosy pub, out of my mind.

There is what used to be a fine old pub back down the hill, on the edge of the estate; in fact I believe at one time it was something to do with the “big house”. Nowadays the Vauxhall Inn is run by Chef & Brewer, and being much more of an eatery than the old alehouse it once was, dogs are not allowed inside. A great pity as it would have been the perfect way to end our walk. Instead, Ellie and I had to walk forlornly past and make do with a cup of tea at home instead.

Of course, the Vauxhall is not alone in banning dogs. In the mistaken name of hygiene and ‘elf ‘n safety, we have denied admittance to man’s best friend from hundreds, if not thousands, of pubs up and down the country.The whole episode got me thinking about just what a crazy country we now live in, where all sorts of absurd rules and regulations govern our every day lives.

A dozen or so years ago we had a dog of our own, and probably six or more years prior to her passing I used to take her into the Vauxhall. Back then it was traditional old pub and, as it had several separate bars, potential conflicts between diners and those just wanting a convivial drink, (with or without a canine companion), just weren’t an issue. Oh that this were the case today – separate bars catering for the different needs of disparate groups of people.

 We certainly have lost a lot in the rush to create a homogenised society, and when one combines all this with all the rules and regulations we have to put up with today it really makes me yearn for the past. Things were a lot simpler back then and people just got on with their lives without interference from petty bureaucrats and the all pervading influence of the “nanny state”. At least I am old enough to remember such times, which is more than can said of today’s generation.


Bryan the BeerViking said...

Yesterday we had lunch in Bruges, we had the dog with us and although some other places wouldn't let him in, the Michelin-starred Brasserie Raymond allowed him into the restaurant where he lay quietly under the table as we ate and drank. (Thankfully no other dogs came in while we were there, as that would have made him a bit more restive!)

Curmudgeon said...

See this poll on my blog.

I liked this comment:

"Me and my OH have long used “dogs allowed” as a benchmark as to whether or not a pub is worth going into. Even if we are travelling without our dog we ask nevertheless. Without fail, all the pubs which say no turn out to be rather soulless, unfriendly places which we wouldn’t choose to visit again – no matter how nice they look, or how “reasonable” their excuses are for not allowing them – whereas the ones which say yes are always warm, friendly and sociable. Although it has surprised a few bar staff when we walk in, having asked if dogs are allowed, without said pooch in tow."

Surely, like many other things, it needs to be managed by pubs rather than just banned outright.

Dominic said...

Some friends, disapprovingly, comment on pubs that allow dogs but not children. I have no objection to 'little monsters' at a reasonable distance, and in a separate room. Far too many visits to a good pub have been ruined by them running amock off the leash.

Dogs tho' are generally well-controlled, and in recent years apart from checking that a pub is easily accessible by the disabled (and that includes getting to the loo), regular walking with good friend Austin and Bertie (a Bedlington Terrier should you be intending to ask)for the last 7-8 years needing to know whether or not a lunchtime or end of walk stop will let us all in is reasonably critical. Too many city or town pubs say no - we couldn't find one in Oxford - and some quite unreasonably object after you've been there some time, out on the terrace, when you've gone in to buy a second round, and no notices are posted. And it's nothing to do with food or public hygiene requirements.

Boutiller said...

What's so frustrating is that it is, as you allude, a misinterpretation of health and safety rules that causes these problems. I also suspect some people wilfully hide behind H & S as simply an excuse. As far as I'm aware there is nothing in the regs that says dogs cannot be permitted into an establishment that serves food.

You should visit Faversham by the way. Lots of great pubs, most serving food and all bar none allowing dogs in.

Dominic said...

2 of my local pubs that do welcome dogs (or dogs are OK) include these that I checked for the WC1/WC2 real ale guide. Not all pubs were asked, tho' can and often does indicate dog friendly pubs so it's worth checking:

Angel St Giles High St (no kids, disabled fine tho' only to public bar toilets); Harp Chandos Place (no kids, disabled limited and no access to toilets, dogs fine).

And in Robertsbridge East Sussex: the Ostrich by the station, the Seven Stars in the High Street, and the Salehurst Halt all are happy with dogs at least :-).

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. The general consensus appears to be that many pubs cite concerns over hygiene for not allowing dogs entry. This is just an excuse, and a pretty poor one at that, and agrees with my own conclusions on the matter. Obviously licensees have a right to ban whoever, or whatever, they see fit - providing they remain within the law, but I would much rather they were honest about why our canine friends are not allowed within their walls.

I fully accept that some people either don’t like or are afraid of dogs, and I have no problems with that, but please don’t hide behind the curtain of hygiene, or health and safety when it is quite clear these rules do not apply.

I don’t want to re-open the debate about children in pubs, but what I will say is having had experience of looking after both children and dogs within licensed premises, children get bored very quickly, dogs don’t. Children need to be kept amused, whilst most dogs are content to lie quietly under the table, or close to the fire, and go to sleep.

Final point on the matter, and I know those days are long gone, but when pubs had the choice of two or more bars, none of this (dogs or children), was a problem. In our haste to create a more egalitarian society, we have definitely lost something from our pubs, and if anything marked the beginning of the pub’s long and painful decline, this was it.