Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Stag's Dead: A victory for common bastards

Stags Head, 55 Orsman RoadThe Stag's Head lies in the backstreets at the border of Hoxton and De Beauvoir Town, in about as unprepossessing a location as you can imagine. It nestles between the sprawling council estates and derelict-looking industrial units, and looks from the outside like the sort of pub you go into to get shot if you happen to have annoyed the local villains. It's on the corner of two of the quietest streets in London, so the footfall is on a par with that at the north pole. Of course it was not long for this world, like all local boozers, it was due for a swift knocking-down and selling on for yuppie flats, except that Matty, Ellie and Zack got hold of it and through a combination of 1) putting on live music, including folk sessions, 2) getting the trendies in while 3) keeping the locals on board, 4) leaving the decor as was, instead of the usual tarting up by people with the interior design sense of a drunk racoon, 5) dishing out free food, instead of charging fistfuls of cash for supposedly organically massaged beef, 6) not raising the prices, 7) some mighty lock-ins, through this combo - in short, by treating their punters like people not cash machines - they managed to increase the pub takings from basically fuck all to a whopping health; the pub is packed several nights a week and throughout the day at weekends; there's a local community interaction thing going on, people belong there, feel comfortable there, get to put their nights on with little fuss there, it is one of the very few pub take-overs by a "trendy" crowd that has managed this fine balancing act and is probably the template all you wannabe landlords and landladies should aspire to, especially in London where the decent pubs, ie. the pubs that aren't just about cashing in or trendying up, are going, going, gone.

Corporate Scum
But what the fuck, you think you can just have this info and that's it? You think that the pub isn't getting closed by their pubco Enterprise Inns? Because that sort of success deserves nothing less than harassment, non-delivery of beer and exorbitant rent rises? Because the pubco realise that they can get more cash from selling on the tenancy to another landlord, who waltzing in fresh from running some All Bar One alike in Clapham and seeing the takings for the last year, will pay far more for the lease than they should. And when that landlord fails to make ends meet, well sweet pubco magically transforms to flat-building co and bob's a good'un; all money grist to the pubco mill, dividends for the shareholders, it's called maximising income, all good business practice, meanwhile a community pub, one of the few that has bucked the trend, a place to go, hang out, meet people, play music, see bands, eat food, get pissed, and still have some money in your pocket at the end of the night, a place I like to go, and I don't like fuck all, a decent boozer, in other words, that is just another bunch of numbers Stags Head, 55 Orsman Roadat the bottom of an accountant's spreadsheet, money talks, and we're all deafened.

Matty seems decidedly sanguine about the whole thing. It's not new, it's not even unusual, and nothing lasts forever, but it stings like a bastard. And I don't care, I'm gonna say it: Enterprise Inns are a bunch of cunts.