My other local pub in the news lately is The Hare and Hounds in East Sheen. This is my real local. It has been my local pub of choice for just over thirty years. It's a big pub and over the years has proved to be all things to all people. Owned by Young's it has recently been the subject of their current phase of makeovers and refurbishments.
You may remember that it was closed for the work to be done just before Easter.
The pub was closed for months due to various problems with planning and disputes with the local authority but eventually re-opened about a month ago.
First impressions were good. The pub remains very much a pub rather than a restaurant style gastropub. Being so large, it can still provide different drinking or dining experiences for everyone. The garden is hidden and huge and has been scrubbed up and is a pleasant place for a pint in the fine weather. The back of the pub used to house a snooker table (removed in a previous refurb) so is large enough to have a waiter service dining room. The other two bars are spacious, comfortable and well furnished. A large screen TV is unobtrusively sat on one wall and will be used for special sporting events. The food offering is much improved and the pub is also now open for morning coffee. A real local amenity and very much what the best local pub should be. All things to all people.
Which brings us back round to the front and the public bar that we all fought so hard to retain. The council's heritage officer agreed with complaints that this was of historic importance to the area being one of the last 30's style public bars in any of the local pubs and refused an initial Young's application to make the pub wholly open plan.
Bloody Hell ! The public bar has been turned into a Bellini Lounge ! Worse still, it is now only available for private hire and is locked most of the time. A real thumb in the eye for those of us who campaigned for its retention and a real lost opportunity for Young's (IMHO). It really does seem that that they are hell bent on removing the old style drinker for a more affluent diner.
That is fine and Young's results do not lie with approaching 30% of turnover being food driven. However, with a such a large pub surely there was space to accommodate the blokes who want to visit the betting shop next door and return to the comfort of the pub for a pint or two.
Blimey, even the gent's urinal in the old public bar has been turned into a ladies pamper room !
One saving grace is that the beer quality is superb. I have visited a few times in the last month and each time I have been struck by how good the beer is. It is my honestly held belief that a pub will change in character over time but it is the beer that is the most important for me. With the quality of the beer this good, I will hopefully be a regular visitor for the next thirty years.