The Best Christmas Bars and Festive Spaces of 2021

The halls are decked, the bells are ringing out and the big man is on his way to town! Here we have selected some of our favourite Christmas venues to get you in the festive spirit, the cosiest spots to duck into after a long day’s shopping and party places to continue into the night.

Appearing alongside the Christmas Markets in mayor cities across the UK, we find pop-up alpine style bars, tipi tents and winter villages. Kitted out with a festive décor, cosy fabrics and twinkling lights, you’ll be sure to feel all fuzzy inside. Mulled wine & hot chocolate can be expected, with roaring fires and dancefloors at YurtBar, a DJ booth at Mysabar and even exclusive karaoke cabins at Bar Hütte.

Seasonal igloos have also proven to be a popular extension to many businesses, offering your own private space to cosy up in, dine in or just to simply take in your surroundings. Whether you have a view down the Thames at Coppa Club, overlooking Birmingham’s canals from Gas Street Social or are high up above in the Aviary, you will feel like you are in your own little snow globe.

Snug wooden cabins, to a similar effect, are great for small group bookings too. From beach hut hideouts at Brighton Music Hall, to dancing on the rooftop at Liberté in Liverpool or Black Forest lodges in the city centre at The Club House.

If you prefer to soak up the atmosphere and get involved with a crowd, try the laid-back shared tables at Junkyard Market or Pergola Paddington, both surrounded by an array of food stalls to choose from, with live music and DJs. For true party vibes, outrageous bingo and BBQ delights, try a book club with a difference at Hillhead Bookclub, Glasgow.

With full Christmas transformations into grown-up grottos, these pubs have gone all out! We have Christmas on Pilgrim Street at Market Lane in Newcastle and Miracle on Cross Street hidden within Salt Dog Slim’s in Manchester. Ivy Chelsea Garden in London however, are used to changing the front seasonally, and this year have welcomed what looks like the whole of Whoville to Kings Road with their Miracle on Mount Crumpet.

All about the festive food? Why not try the world’s first café dedicated to pigs in blankets in Bristol, Pigsty, or a private dining experience at Arta, Glasgow. Cold Town House, as well as having an Après ski inspired rooftop bar with the best views of Edinburgh Castle, also has a whole floor dedicated to pizza & prosecco, not to mention their on-site brewhouse!

Follow your favourites at Useyourlocal or type in your location on the homepage to find something a little closer to home.

BII Licensee of the Year Award 2021

This year marks 40 years of the British Institute of Innkeeping helping inspire, develop and support businesses within the hospitality industry.

Celebrating with them, on the 23rd of November at next month’s Winter Event, will be the 6 finalists of 2021’s Licensee of the Year, as they take this opportunity to announce this year’s winner. Sponsored by Sky, the Licensee of the Year competition is widely regarded as the most prestigious and hard-fought award for individual licensee operators in the UK.

A full list of this year’s finalists and their fantastic pubs can be found here, on Useyourlocal’s “Discover more” section. But, for more information on the Licensee of the Year award, their sponsors and this year’s team of judges, please head over to the BII website.

The Finalists

  • Tom and James – The White Hart, Welwyn.

Dating back to 1681 as Welwyn’s main coaching inn, The White Hart now offers varied menus using quality ingredients, real ales, an extensive gin range, cocktails & an exciting wine list too.

  • Stephen and Rebecca – The Grey Mare, Belthorn.

One of the highest pubs in England, The Grey Mare is an award-winning traditional country pub, where you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views, exceptional food and some of the North West’s finest real ales.

  • Matt and Ellie – The White Lion, Wrightington.

Passionate about food and their immaculately kept Cask Marque accredited cellar, there is a little something for everyone at The White Lion.

  • Mick and Sarah – The Alexandra, Wimbledon.

The Alexandra is a community pub located in the heart of Wimbledon, delighting their customers with an exceptional range of premium wines, spirits, ales and British seasonal food.

  • Colum and Anne-Marie – The Greyhound Hotel, Carshalton.

Steeped in local heritage and with beautiful views over the Carshalton Ponds, The Greyhound Hotel is a friendly pub and hotel focusing on bringing its customers the best of British seasonal food.

Perfectly located a mile from the beach at Rock, The Pityme Inn is passionate about locally sourced produce and works closely with local suppliers to bring the best of Cornwall to your plate and glass.

A huge well done and congratulations to all 6 finalists for getting this far, and to all of those that entered, as the BII have said that this year’s entries have been of a particularly high standard, making the decision from their judging panel even more difficult.

Best of luck!

Pubs Powered by SmartDispense

Sponsored post by Heineken UK

There is nothing quite like a chilled pint in your favourite pub. But have you ever thought about how the beer gets to your glass?

A lot of us have probably never been in a pub cellar. When it comes to innovation, we haven’t seen any major changes in the hundreds of years that pubs have existed. SmartDispense™ leads the way in changing that and continues to evolve the way your favourite pub dispenses their beer and cider. Over 5,000 outlets have made the switch to SmartDispense since it became available for install in 2013. Not only are these businesses investing in their pub and your drinking experience, but they are making steps towards being more environmentally friendly.

How does it work?

A standard cellar set up means a line clean every week for your local pub. This is because yeast, a key component in beer, will grow when it combines with oxygen at ambient temperatures. This will ruin both your pint and the line it is kept in. To prevent this, hours are spent flushing through the dispense equipment to ensure you experience the best quality all year round. SmartDispense™ changes that. Gone is that lost time and weekly pints of water, beer and cider down the drain, as well as all that CO2 needed to chill and dispense them. Instead, thanks to this energy-efficient smart technology which works from the cellar to serve, we can prevent yeast growth and safely extend line clean intervals. This means less waste which is better for our planet, without compromising on the great taste of your favourite pint.

So, what’s the secret?

How can cleaning go from weekly to every 6 weeks, or even 12 weeks without compromising on quality? The answer comes down to simple science. A standard system can have lots of potential points where the beer can rise to room temperature. This can be down to lack of temperature control, old equipment and bare lines that are exposed rather than covered. Meanwhile SmartDispense™ uses cooling technology to control the temperature within the ‘python’, i.e., the line that feeds the beer from keg to tap. It completely encapsulates the product until the moment it hits the glass. By doing both these things the yeast cannot grow and multiply – similar to putting food in the fridge or freezer to prolong the shelf life and maintain taste and quality. You wouldn’t leave a pint of milk out on the side, right? Accompany this with following the best hygiene practices for nozzles (pouring your pint into glass), couplers (connecting kegs to the beer lines) and caring for glassware, means the time between line cleans can be extended. PLUS… The strict temperature control and excellent hygiene standards mean a refreshing, great quality pint at 3°C or less every time.

Quote from Stuart Briant, The SmartDispense ‘Smart’ Guy:

“Since the first version of SmartDispense was created in what was no more than a glorified cupboard, I’m pleased to say the technology has continued to evolve. Not only have we been able to improve the environmental savings for bars who invest in great quality beers and ciders, but it is now more accessible to any size venue.  The original version was too bulky & had to be disassembled just to get it into the cellar, with 4 men required to re-assemble and install it in position! Now the smallest technology is only the footprint of an A4 piece of paper, meaning more sustainable, great tasting beer and cider can be served almost anywhere!”

Times are changing, and we all need to make steps towards a greener living.

Try your nearest SmartDispense outlet for a top-quality pint and to support a less wasteful future. You can find your nearest one here:

If Pubs did Premieres…

No Time To Die in cinemas on 30th of September

Well, not quite a pub, more of a decadent wine & cocktail bar better suited to Bond’s taste – Everyman is a new type of cinema oozing with style, where you can enjoy their beautiful surroundings film or not.

Everyman, an independent network of boutique cinemas across the UK, are all about quality, comfort and creating a warm & friendly atmosphere within their 35 locations. More than just a cinema, each venue has their own luxurious bar and lounge areas, serving delicious hand-stretched pizzas, juicy Spielburgers and tapas-style sharing boards, along with specially selected wines, hand-crafted cocktails and fresh creamy milkshakes.

You haven’t got to watch a film to enjoy an Everyman. The bars can be hidden gems tucked away on a busy high street or in the shopping centre, with some even having roof-top bars with views across the city like the Leeds, Lincoln & Horsham venues.

The screens themselves, from the small and intimate to the larger auditoriums, are equipped with their signature velvet sofas and plump cushions, making the experience even more enjoyable. And all food & drink can be delivered right to your sofa – don’t forget the popcorn!

With a wide array of mainstream, independent and classic films, special events, launches and a diverse calendar of live satellite broadcasts, there is something for everyone at Everyman. Screens and spaces are also available for private hire, perfect for drinks soirees, children’s parties, private screenings or corporate hospitality & business presentations.

Ahead of next week’s UK premiere of James Bond, and as one of the fastest-growing independent cinema networks in the UK, we wanted to show you a cinema with a difference. Expect to see an Everyman arrive in a town or city near you as they expand into numerous new sites over the coming months and years.

What are you waiting for? With all the exciting items on their menu, there is No Time To Die(t)!* For a full list of locations and a dedicated publist go to:

*Full credit to the Stratford-upon-Avon venue for that one – we’re just here for the puns!

Top 10 Reasons to Love Your Local

In the run up to National Hospitality Day on the 18th of September, we wanted to highlight our top ten reasons to love your local – here’s a recap:

The Staff – it really wouldn’t be the industry that it is without the people behind the scenes. They’ve had a tough 18 months but have persevered. Long shifts and unsociable hours, but always service with a smile and a kind word to be had. Those that work in hospitality have missed the customers as much as the customers have missed them!

The Sense of Community – The pub is the hub as they say. At the heart of any community there is a local pub, community centre or social club, and they really have pulled together and shone through during the pandemic. We’ve seen rural pubs convert into essential shops selling all the necessities to isolated locals; venues delivering hot meals to the elderly, NHS staff and helping with free school meals; acting as collection points or offering refuge and advice; as well as just keeping morale up with online quizzes and live music videos while in lockdown.

The Location – Whether it be city centre, countryside, high street or beachfront, there is a local just where it needs to be. A hearty meal by the fire after a long country walk, a relaxing cake & coffee by the beach watching the tide come in, or a pint after work by the office – all perfectly positioned.

The Food – It’s more than just going out for some good old pub grub, it’s the local suppliers, the homemade bread & cakes, the hand stretched pizzas and the award winning Sunday roasts with giant Yorkshire puddings – it’s the passion and dedication that goes into each dish. Food brings people together and what better way to do so than by bonding over burgers?

The Drinks – There is so much more on offer nowadays when it comes to a drink. Alcoholic or non-alcoholic, there is a true science behind the making of the perfect concoction, just ask the mixologists, baristas and breweries. From bubble tea to black cherry beer, caramel lattes to quirky cocktails, creamy milkshakes and cask ale cans, as well as the traditional hand pulls or celebrity endorsed spirits. The options are endless!

Bar Sports – Competitively or just for fun pubs, clubs and bars have plenty to keep us busy. There may be a darts team to join or a snooker hall to practise in along with plenty of competitions and leagues throughout the year. Skittles and bowls are still popular in traditional social clubs and we have seen a rise in board game nights as well as dedicated cafes. Yet the big debate continues on the foosball pitch… to spin or not to spin?

The Environment and atmosphere – Whatever your mood you can find a venue to suit. Pre-match build ups by the stadium on the way to a game, or the collective groans and cheers if watching live from a sports bar. The crackling of a fire midwinter in a country inn or soaking up the sun in a beer garden on a bank holiday.

The Music – Adding to the atmosphere, a live musician, band or DJ brings that little extra something. Whether it be the main act, a little background music or at an open mic night, you might just discover the next big thing. From grassroots to well established artists, you can find great gigs in pubs, clubs & bars up and down the country.

The Entertainment – it’s not just live music and bar games keeping us entertained. Test your knowledge at the pub quiz, sing your favourite songs on karaoke night or be in with the chance to win some prizes at the bingo. Whatever your local has on, let’s have some fun!

The Celebrations – From weddings to wakes, baby showers to birthdays, graduations and gatherings, the hospitality sector has been there to help create memories and celebrate these big life events in style. The show must go on and the parties will continue, so here’s a toast to the industry we love!

For more information on National Hospitality Day, the charities involved and how you can help the cause please visit: