opinion pubs

Personality Crisis

A London pub, as illustrated by Kaffe Fassett for the New London Spy (1966)

It takes a certain kind of person to do a good job of running a pub.

A few years ago, a friend of ours gave up teaching after only a couple of years. She was doing well — she’d been promoted several times, and was popular with the children she taught — but, as she was sufficiently self-aware to realise, she just didn’t have the type of personality that could cope with it in the long term.

She was good with people but it just wore out her batteries, whereas some of her colleagues got a buzz from it. They were the ones who really enjoyed teaching: they liked being with 30 people for almost every hour of the working day.

She is an introvert, while the best of her colleagues were extroverts, just like the best pub landlords.

The best landlords create a good atmosphere, rather than killing it. They never seem tired or give the impression that they would rather all those irritating customers would just go home. They’ll make conversation with anyone who wants it and always honour the promise of a “friendly welcome for all” chalked on the board outside.

Yes, landlords can have a lot of worries, but, sometimes, aren’t they just in the wrong line of business?

We’ve used that illustration before, but we like it so much, we’re going to trot it out at least once a year.

9 replies on “Personality Crisis”

totally agree, I know licensees and bar staff who are on their feet for hours, relentlessly friendly without sounding like weird biblebashers or grizzled soaks, with the sort of energy I could only have from triple shots of espresso evey hour on the hour — being a licensee is not a game it’s a higher calling, bit like being a vicar I reckon. You do it because you want to.

Excellent post. My Mum and Dad were both teachers. Teaching, just like being a ‘good publican’ (i.e. someone who understands the cellar, is a true jack-of-all-trades and is also incredibly socially-aware, as opposed to someone who ‘took a pub on’) is definitely a vocation.

As is, unsurprisingly, the job of a brewer. I’ve known several lads who are intelligent beings, with a true love of beer, get very bored very quickly with the brewing process.

TBN — he can’t draw girls, either.

Dominic — thanks. Bet brewing is very similar, actually, although presumably a better line of work for introverts?

ATJ — we had a couple of particularly good landlords in mind. One bloke we know can usually be seen clearing glasses in a crowded bar on Friday night, whistling and clicking his fingers along to the live band, despite having been working since breakfast time. Funny how these people seem to have the busiest pubs, actually…

when I’m asked what makes a good pub, one of the first things I say is the welcome and the vibe, you can have all the great beers in the world but if there’s a monosyllabic cauldron of sociopathic simplicity at the bar then I’m off.

A good landlord is an asset you just can’t put a price on. My local has a great guy behind the bar even when he is suffering with after effects of a rotten cold he is still friendly and chatty.

It is definitely a higher calling, I don’t think I could do it. Once or twice I have worked behind the bar and it is difficult.

I completely agree. A landlord I know who shall remain nameless, can be extremely friendly one day, yet a complete ignoramus another for no definable reason. He hates it when his pub is empty and is miserable when it’s full.

To me you are 100% correct, these people are in the people industry, we are their source of income and should be treated as such. We go to pubs to relax and enjoy ourselves not be belittled or berated..

There are limits of course on both sides but a simple hello is a must, anything else is just bad manners.

It does take that sort of person, yes – a ‘host’ in the truest sense; but with a core of steel. The landlord, staff and (to a lesser extent) the setting make for a great pub, not the beers on the bar. It’s a tough, tough job to do right – but luckily I’m sure we all know at least one place we can go where ‘everybody knows your name’, so to speak.
I went to The Adelphi in Leeds the other day for a break from Xmas shopping. On my own, I avoided the lunch rush and ended up being the only soul in there, around 15.00. Even though the pub was empty, the landlady made me feel welcome, letting me taste the beer (a Stonehenge Third Eye) and, when I asked for some crisps which were not on the bar, she not only went to the cellar to get some, she brought it over to where I was sat. I sat there, paper and pint, smiling. Peace. Contentment.

A job I could not do. No way. I’m too moody when tired!

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