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Locals vs. Visitors

On Sunday, we were unlucky enough to see an example of how badly wrong things can go in a pub which, for half the year, is a tourist destination and, for the other half, is a quiet little place in a more-or-less deserted town.

The pub in question is a bit eccentric — not rough, but characterful, and with a bit of history. When we entered, there were a group of regulars, well away after an afternoon’s boozing, sitting on stools around the bar.

Not long after we’d arrived, a German couple came in, lured by the promise of ‘good cooking with local ingredients’ and, in particular, sea bass. They were given a cosy candlelit booth in a private corner. The husband (dressed in the customary hunting jacket of a German abroad) asked directly but politely for the music to be turned down a bit. It was loud, and he had been directed to a seat under the speakers. Fair enough. The very professional barmaid/waitress did as he’d asked.

A little later, while the barmaid was in the kitchen, one of the regulars (let’s call him Bob) noticed that the music had been turned down and, swearing, shouted for it to be turned back up. “Is the f**king volume control broken?” It got turned back up.

The barmaid returned and immediately said to the landlady (who was sitting drinking with the regulars) that the people on table 10 had asked for the music to be turned down. It got turned down.

Bob went ballistic. “I drink here every day all year round and I want the music up. I don’t care what table 10 want.” He began to swear at the barmaid who got upset. The landlord and landlady did nothing. The barmaid tried to throw him out, without much success, or any support.

The Germans, thank God, seemed oblivious.

Oblivious, that is, until a drunk Bob came to loom over their table and have a word about their bad manners and how they’d ruined his fun. “If you don’t like it, why d’you come here!?” At this point, the landlady did intervene, guiding him away, and apologising half-heartedly to the tourists. It was embarrassing and awkward for everyone.

Of course, Bob had a point — during the long, cold winter, he and his friends keep the pub afloat. But, by letting him behave like this towards customers and staff, the owners of this pub are risking the loss of a lot more than Bob’s custom. What about the rest of this German tour party? Or anyone who ever asks the coach driver or tour guide for a recommendation of a pub in that particular town? Or asks us?

We certainly won’t be going back.

16 replies on “Locals vs. Visitors”

Not sure that’s the kind of customer I’d want as a regular, really. But it underlines the point that if you want to cater to very different categories of customer, you need areas that are separate enough that one doesn’t impinge on the other.

This is the type of pub that will struggle to survive. Heaven only knows how many people Bob’s boorish behaviour drives away in the winter months. Bob has no “point”. He has no right to abusive, bullying rudeness. He has no right to bring staff to tears. But the ultimate responsibility for what occurred has to lie with the licensees. They need to get a grip or risk losing their business, home and savings.

Of course is strange to stay in a place too loud for you, knowing there are millions of pubs in England to have a pint in. However, my policy is no tolerance with rude/agressive people, if you become a disgusting freak when you drink, get drunk at home.

Any licencee worth the title would have kicked Bob out.

There’s a pub in a fishing village outside Bideford, which at one time seemed to be run as a romper room for chippy locals. They’d sit shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar, deliberately making it difficult for ‘grockles’ to get served. Apparently the landlord’s left now – drunk himself into bankruptcy, according to rumours. It was a shame, because it had the potential to be a gem of a pub.

An all too familiar story, really. They can’t, or feel that they can’t, sanction Bob as he is their core customer. But by pandering to him, they are limiting their options and heading down a dead end. Better to ban him and concentrate on building up a better customer base.

In my experience, pubs in which the owners/managers sit and drink with regulars tend to be unwelcoming and quickly go out of business.

Yes, but without defending Bob’s behaviour, you have to recognise that rough-hewn, boozy blokes do make up a significant proportion of the overall trade of pubs. Every pub can’t be like Betty’s Tea Rooms. The answer surely must be to accept that the Bobs of this world and seabass do not mix in the same pub.

I think I probably agree with Curmudgeon on this — this pub wants its cake (or sea bass) and to eat it.

“Every pub can’t be like Betty’s Tea Rooms” — exactly right, as long as rough pubs send out the right signs so you know what you’re walking into. They don’t want me there, and I don’t want to be there, so a bit of a hint before I cross the threshold is very helpful.

When we say Bob has a point, what I mean is that, if his behaviour and taste for loud music is acceptable all through the winter, I can understand why he’d be confused when things suddenly change as June approaches… but he was acting like a nob, and they should have kicked him out.

We have been in pubs which have different markets depending on season and your one is (as you said) an example of a bad one.

Bob overstepped the mark when he walked over to the table and had a go at the other customers. The pub was out of line allowing Bob to feel he was entitled to do this.

Bob should have been barred immediately by the landlord. Now that a lot of ‘local’ pubs are having to branch out into food / cafe type pubs just to survive this seems to be happening a lot. One can see Bob’s side up to a certain point in that he and his mates keep the pub open in the quiet times, but as soon as someone becomes abusive to other paying customers, its time to end it

I spent the summers of my youth with my uncle selling fish to pubs and then getting wild on cider in them. Difference was the grockles were in the lounge and we were in the bar.

Bob should have been taken outside for a short walk. He’d be back the next day, he’d be back all winter long. It just needed a firm hand from t’management.

If the landlady isn’t prepared to do that, she needs to decide on what she actually wants the pub’s future to be. Before it’s decided for her by opinion and deserting customers.

“I drink here every day all year round”

You sort of wonder what it is about his home life that is so lacking. I feel sorry for Bob, but embarrassed that the German tourists had to endure him.

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