Echoes of the past: Can you run a pub?

Geoffrey Crowther seen here with his wife Janet at the bar of the Dusty Miller in Hove Edge
Geoffrey Crowther seen here with his wife Janet at the bar of the Dusty Miller in Hove Edge

Whilst the licensees of many local pubs seem to change more frequently these days, or you see what is now a familiar sight outside many pubs, asking passersby, ‘can you run a pub?’

There was a time when licensees were at the same pub for year after year and became part of the community. Everyone knew the licensee and his partner, but things have certainly changed. I know that when I started the Brighouse Pub Watch scheme over 25 years ago licensees then were saying how the trade was changing. ‘It just isn’t the same anymore’, was an all too familiar point made at the meetings.

Licensees were changing at some pubs more often and whilst at one meeting we would be welcoming a new member who had just taken over a particular pub. The following monthly meeting it was pointed out that the new member had left and chucked the towel in at the pub.

It is often said in some circles that the days of vertical drinking are becoming a distant memory. Many now find that food is the draw that keeps many pubs going.

An older persons reminiscence group I run on Tuesdays in Halifax I occasionally ask the question, ‘When was the last time you were in a pub just for a drink?’. Every time the answer is that they cannot remember it is that long ago. When I ask them if they have meals in pubs, the answer is always that they do and go often and enjoy the value for money meals that are on offer.

At our Pub Watch meetings there were a few regular faces, some of the older and more experienced licensees who often had comments and opinions on the licensing trade that other members sat up and took note of.

In this photograph taken in January 1990 is one of the licensees everyone took notice of when they spoke. Geoffrey Crowther seen here with his wife Janet at the bar of the Dusty Miller in Hove Edge. Many readers will remember them more when they were at the Crown Hotel in Lightcliffe Road. Geoffrey and his wife were known by everyone and were familiar faces in their community. They were respected members of the local licensing trade. Geoffrey was someone I went to for an opinion or a little bit of advice or tap into his extensive knowledge of the trade.

Geoffrey once told me that many new licensees think that running a pub is just about standing at the bar in a smart jacket chatting to customers and counting the money at the end of the night. Geoffrey would shake his head in despair.

I am sure readers will remember some, or just one of the licensees who were at their local pub. My own happy memories go back to Trevor and Dorothy Culpan who were at the Dusty Miller at Hove Edge. This couple were two of the most respected people not only in the village but throughout the licensing trade.

But, always try and see it from the other side of the bar as well. Licensees or managers have many difficulties in the licensing trade of the twenty first century. As drinking habits change, sadly we are likely to see more pubs displaying that sign, ‘Can you run a pub’?