|The lack of a car park doesn't help|
At the risk of sounding boring and focused solely on a single topic, I want to mention the Greyhound again. I am doing this partly because I promised to reveal more about some issues which might prevent the pub from ever reopening, but also because some of these points could equally apply to other threatened rural pubs. I walked passed the now sadly closed pub this lunchtime. It hasn’t been boarded up yet, but I suspect it will only be a matter of time before this happens.
So what future, if any, is there for the Greyhound? Well, as mentioned in a previous article, a group of concerned local residents have applied to have the pub listed as an ACV (Asset of Community Value). The result of this application should be known by the third week of February, but having ACV listing provides no firm guarantees that the building will continue as a pub; it just makes it a little harder for a potential purchaser to succeed in obtaining permission for “change of use”.
|A garden definitely helps|
There are a couple of factors which I know have already persuaded two potential investors, to not go through with buying the pub as a going concern. The first is that, somewhat unusually for a rural pub, the Greyhound does not have a garden.
There is a strip of land to the left of the pub, which is used as a beer garden, but it actually belongs to the property behind, and is currently leased to the pub. Whether this arrangement would continue, if the pub was to acquire new owners, is uncertain, and there are no guarantees that it will.
The second and rather more serious concern is the pub has no car-park. It is possible to park on the road, either side of the pub, and even opposite, whilst still leaving room for cars to pass, but the number of spaces is limited, and too many cars parking along the lane could lead to complaints from local residents. This is a serious handicap for a country pub which relies on people arriving by car, for the bulk of its trade.
Of course, both factors could also weigh against conversion to a private dwelling, as most people who move to the country, desire a garden of some sorts; and most would also want off-road parking. The alternative would be to convert the pub into two separate dwellings, but even then both a garden and off-road parking are desirable features; if not essential.
Whatever the effect of the lack of these amenities, there is no future for the pub as a “wet-sales” only establishment. I know roughly what Larkin’s were taking each week, and I suspect that it barely covered the rent. It is therefore essential that a re-opened Greyhound offers food. The pub was doing this before it closed last summer, and often when I walked by on my lunchtime constitutional, I could see people inside getting tucked to a meal. I can’t, of course, advise as to how busy the pub was in the evening, but I think it must have been ticking over ok.
At the moment then, it remains very much a case of “wait and see”, but the fact that Larkin’s had been asked to terminate their temporary lease, does indicate that someone has made a firm offer for the Greyhound.
|So does a good beer range - providing the turnover is there!|
The thing which emerges from all this is that rural pubs, of the type I remember drinking in whilst coming of age, have virtually disappeared. Larkin’s valiant attempt to prove otherwise, during their brief tenancy of the Greyhound, unfortunately failed. More than ever, country pubs need to offer food, and good food at that; food which people are prepared to travel for, in order to enjoy.
Some rural pubs also manage to stock a good range of local, and sometimes hard to get beers, on top of their food offer. Such places become “destination pubs”; places which discerning drinkers (and diners) are prepared to seek out and make the effort to travel to. The Windmill, at Sevenoaks Weald is one such pub which springs to mind, but there are quite a few others, not just in this region, but all over the county.
Local beer enthusiasts soon get to know these places, and actively seek them out, so the future is definitely not all bad for rural pubs. Some of them just need to up their game a bit.