I thought I might write a word or 200 about opening hours today. My indignation at standing in front of a closed Coach and Horses in Dronfield is still raw, and, I appear to be failing to "get over it" but there's history here. Not just in terms of inexplicable Coach and Horses closings, but also in my whole drinking and particularly beer travel experiences, over the years.
Here, by way of cathartic naming and shaming and general bad tempered mardiness, is a list of some of the choicest examples :
Cherry Tree, Stoke Row Oxfordshire c1999: before this became a homogenised Brakspear eatery with a bar, (along with the also formerly excellent before it became a restaurant Crooked Billet not far away), the Cherry Tree was in the GBG and described as an unspoilt traditional pub. We were on a whistle stop tour of the area, and rang them two days prior to confirm their opening hours. They closed at 15.00, but as long as we were there by 5 to it was flexible so we'd get served. We arrived at 14.45 to find them locking the door.
King William 4th, Ipsden, Oxfordshire c1999: Also on the above trip I wanted, having somehow found the Black Horse at Checkendon, the challenge of finding this pub which the 2001 GBG states opens 11-14.30 Saturdays. We rang two days in advance to check and arrived at 14.00 to find it closed.
King John Inn Tollard Royal Wiltshire 2004 - used to be in the GBG, advertised conservative but prevalent rural opening hours of 12-15.00 when we were there (as well as on the board on the wall of the pub). We arrived at 14.20 to see a large A frame outside saying "customers wanted". Happy to oblige, we went inside to find the manager with the keys heading off out. When we queried why he was shutting early when we would have wanted to come in for a few pints he said it was because he was going out. Couldn't wait that extra 40 minutes it seemed.
Royal Oak, Ledbury, Herefordshire 1995/6 the brewery tap for the Ledbury Brewery this was quite a large building which sold the Ledbury Brewery Ales and their hard to get beer mats. It was meant to be open (all day if memory serves, but, erm, its yonks ago) and we found it at just gone 13.00 with no signs of life. We noticed that the licensee was milling around and we asked when he opened, which was later that evening, and when we asked if we could come in for a few pints, which would not require him to put the lights on even, he said it "wasn't worth the effort and cost".
Grainstore Brewery Tap, Oakham, Rutland 2007(ish). I admit I didn't believe the GBG when it stated that the pub opened at 10.00 on a Sunday because that's very rare but we had a lot to fit in so arriving at 10.30 this would have been a useful first stop. The lights were on. The staff were in and working. To all intents and purposes the pub was open. But you couldn't go in because they didn't officially open until 11.00. Saving who what, one wonders? Note : I can't find the offending GBG, so it could have been a typo, but GBG 2006, 8,9,10 and 11 have its Sunday opening hours swapping between 11-11 and 12-14.30 in that period.
These are just 5 great examples of the determination of licensees, managers, landlords or tenants to steadfastly shut the doors and not serve pesky customers, with their "cash" and other inconveniences. I'm well aware that there are costs associated with opening the pub (but then, why not keep one room locked and rely on sun/natural light, like the Gate at Troway?) but in my experience the better pubs let you in early if that's the issue or stay open until their advertised hours have passed, or remain open when someones in. Remember, there is no greater persuasion in the mind of the drinker than the spectre of expectation. Fail to sate that thirsty beast, and bad feeling prevails...
The long and the short of it is, I can't spend my money in your pub if the pub is shut, and if I am travelling from afar, or by infrequent public transport, and you are closed, then I will be annoyed and likely not come back.
That's my outlook - but am I being too rigid? Do I just need to get over it?
Or should I just avoid pubs with a Royal or agricultural theme to their name? I don't know, but as you can see from the dates above, I've definitely got over these experiences in the intervening years......