The Local

Bailey, one half of Boak and Bailey, recounts his quest for the perfect local.

Have you ever lived in a place without a local? Somewhere where there is no pub you feel at home in — nowhere you can go, just for one pint, after dinner on a dreary winter Wednesday, and be greeted with a cheery hello?

When I used to live in South London, my flatmate and I would spend ages trudging about the area trying on different pubs for size, hoping to come across one where we’d actually feel comfortable. Unfortunately, to a greater or lesser extent, they all resembled the Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.

The nearest pub was just macabre. It had a skeleton made of cigarette ends hanging on the wall (really) and our conversation would frequently be drowned out by Scandinavian coach parties singing along to the resident Hammond organist. (No, I don’t understand why they were there either.)

The next one was so quiet and in such poor repair that we didn’t even realise it was still trading for several months until we happened to notice the door open one day. The windows were fly-blown; the net curtains were nicotine-stained to the colour of antique pine; and it smelled like damp trainers. We managed one pint there.

Finally, there was a pub built into the bottom of a block of flats where the landlord told us that, if we didn’t support Millwall, we should get out while we still could walk. This wasn’t banter: he really was worried about our safety and didn’t want blood on the lino.

Ten years later, I was living in Walthamstow in East London, where I found a proper local. This is London we’re talking about, of course, so no-one was going over the top with the friendliness, but they at least recognised us from one visit to the next. The beer was great and the range kept expanding. Most importantly, there was no post-work grump so severe it couldn’t be cured by a trip there. It was a happy place.
If you’re lucky enough to have a good local, cherish it, and show your love the best way there is: by going there lots and buying plenty of beer.

Supermarket beer sales overtake pub beer sales for first time

British drinkers are about to consume more beer from supermarkets than from pubs for the first time, as millions stay away from their local. 

The figures come just two weeks after a report suggested that visits to local pubs had fallen by 19pc in the last year, further threatening the future of one of the great British institutions.

Back in the 1970s more than 90pc of all beer drunk in Britain was bought from the “on trade” – pubs and clubs, with less than 10pc brought from the “off trade” of supermarkets and off-licences.

To read more click here.

Long live the gastropub – and to hell with the Good Food Guide snobs

The G-word has been banned from the foodies’ bible The Good Food Guide. What a disgrace.

How very high-handed of The Good Food Guide, the foodies’ bible, to systematically remove the word “gastropub” from its pages. The G-word has been banned altogether from the 2012 edition of the guide, thrown into the outer darkness like a bruised plum or iffy oyster.

Why this Stalinist act of censorship, depriving readers of a useful term to which they have become accustomed? Because, according to the guide’s consultant editor Elizabeth Carter, gastropubs were a 1990s fad that has passed its sell-by date. “I think customers are getting bored with it.”

Really? Some customers may indeed have got bored with the gastropub craze, and not entirely without cause. Far too many pubs have awarded themselves the gastro prefix, hiked their prices, tarted up their menus, but not actually raised their game in the kitchen. If I had a fiver for every rocket salad I have been served in establishments that should have stuck to honest-to-God baked beans and chips…

To read more click here.


The Telegraph: The Village that saved its pub

Residents of a remote spot in Cumbria banded together to keep their local inn open. David Cameron is cheered – but can it prosper on community spirit alone?

Standing on a narrow fell road in the thinly populated wilds of Cumbria, the Butchers Arms is the kind of modest-to-a-fault pub you’d be most likely to find when lost and then think: “I wonder how that old joint keeps going?” It would be a fair question, too. Especially at a time when 30 pubs a week are closing down, most of them in more promising locations than the Butchers Arms.

All last week, though, the Butchers was heaving. David Cameron dropped in recently for a drink and to offer his best wishes for the venture. Inquiries about visiting came from all over the world, and television broadcast vans rumbled past rickety sheep pens into the village of Crosby Ravensworth, a place whose 300 residents just may have broken the lingering death lock on the traditional British pub.

To read more click here.



Billy Abbott, author of Billy’s Booze Blog, shares his love of the local…

I like my flat. As I write I’m sitting on the balcony, 6 floors up, surveying the leafier end of West London with the Wembley arch looking surprisingly big, as it does. It’s a short walk from work, has a bus that goes to town from right outside the door and is mainly inhabited by lovely people. But there’s something missing – a local.
We used to have one, a community centre and bar in the next building over from me, but despite its excellent restaurant, alright pint of Guinness and patronage by the people of the estate it is now closed. This is the first time I’ve lived somewhere without a local pub of some kind, and it feels a bit weird.
As a kid my Dad and Grandfather were linchpins of the local’s darts team, until “The Incident” when they were barred and took half the team with them. We went for a swift half in the beer garden, rain or shine, every Sunday while lunch was cooking and I still have a fondness for drinking Coke through too-thin straws thanks to those afternoons. When I came to London I lived next to my University student union and it sat at the centre of my social life. When I moved one of the key factors in choosing a place to live was what the local would be like – I still look on the Prince Alfred in Bayswater fondly, despite their love of a certain rubbish AC/DC covers band that occasionally drove us elsewhere.
When my friends and I spread to the four corners of the world we still had our local – a pub nominated so that no matter when we were visiting you could be fairly certain that someone would be propping up the bar on a Thursday night waiting for a chat. When the landlord and landlady moved on we went with them and still make pilgrimages to see TJ and Christine in their new home. When I last moved the biggest wrench was no longer having Ealing’s excellent Red Lion, untouched in the recent riots, a mere 2 minutes walk from my door…
However, it strikes me that my current lack is my own fault. I need to make the effort, go for a walk and find my new local. There are candidates but I’ve been too lazy to go and try them out, other than a cursory pint and a glance at their bar menu. It’s a sunny afternoon with a promise of rain later – what better a time to go and do some investigation. Especially as I’ve just been chased inside by a wasp.