HERE are two stories hand-pulled from the pumps. They are local to York but with resonance.
The first concerns the Blue Bell, a small Edwardian pub that is one of York’s cherished curiosities. The Blue Bell has a frontage of red tiles and a window bearing the words “Blue Bell”. Inside the pub is no less distinctive. A tight corridor runs down the left-hand side of the narrow building. Immediately to the right, a door leads to the small front room, while a few steps further takes you to the equally tiny back room. The bar sits between and swings both ways.
Not much more to the place than that, except there is everything to it. The unchanging nature of the Blue Bell is a comfort in times when everything else changes.
The landlord is called John Pybus. I’ve met John once or twice (honest disclosure: my son is a friend) but I don’t know him beyond those brief encounters.
John is a lively, characterful landlord, a pub natural who chats to anyone and whizzes about with energy. He is also still young, and that gives him a turbo-boost missing in some long-term landlords.
While the Blue Bell is small, it is part of something much bigger, and that’s where the story gets ugly. The giant pubco Punch Taverns are the owners and they want John out.
YorkMix website covered this story well and in detail a couple of weeks ago. A recent update reported that more than 1,500 people had signed a petition demanding that this popular landlord be allowed to stay. According to York Camra on Twitter, that figure has risen to 4,500.
The reasons for the argument are complicated but are captured here in a catch-up paragraph from YorkMix: “Essentially, it boils down to this. John exercised his legal right as the tenant of the Fossgate pub to negotiate a fair market rent and opt out of the beer tie, which meant he had to buy all his beer from the pubco at inflated expense.”
Punch Taverns are said to operate in this manner often. What should concern us, along with the appalling treatment of a popular landlord, is the idea of a treasured pub being owned by a distant, unsympathetic corporation. Across town, the Golden Ball, an old-school pub that faced oblivion, is now successfully owned by the locals. That would be a dream solution for the Blue Bell.
I’ve signed the petition to keep John Pybus at the pub, and if you live in York and like pubs, you should too.
The other pub story is that a micro-brewer called Crooked Brewing wants to open a craft ale bar facing Acomb Green. That’s a short walk from where we live and follows the opening of a small but top-notch beer shop, and a new fruit and veg/deli. All good news for an area that has been rather down-trodden; or so you might have thought.
The Press recently reported an objection to the micro-brewery bar. One objection, mind – and a complaint surely outweighed by all the supportive comments beneath the story online.
The objector moaned about opening a bar so close to a children’s play area across the road, fearing that drinkers will “infringe on a family area”. Local knowledge note: the proposed bar is two doors down from the Sun Inn that been there since 1838, with a longer history under different names.
The anonymous misery said the area did “not need another alcohol related establishment and the inevitable alcohol related issues”.
Ah, yes – those also related issues are a worry. If you ask me, the place will be full of middle-aged men trying the beer and having friendly chats/grumbles about life. And I’ll be joining that happy unthreatening throng.