What Makes A Good Pub?

The Good Pub Guide today said 1400 licensees should lose their licenses. We rounded up three experts and asked them to define the secrets of a great boozer...
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Gerry O'Boyle, Landlord of The Boogaloo, Highgate

A good pub is all about the people , the people behind the bar set the tone for the audience they want to attract.Its always people that make great pubs, the smile, the personal touch, going that extra mile to make someone feel welcome. Its important after that to get the offering right, create a welcoming ambience in decor, seating and most importantly lighting. And then there is the drinks offering, tailor it to the audience you are aiming to attract It is important to constantly look around and see what your competitors are doing, check out new openings, always be up to innovate with some new ideas. And food is vital in the present age, be it a pop up pizza doing a 'street food' vibe like we do at the Boogaloo to a full gastro menu, you have to give something in the line of food, it compliments the drinks and nurtures the business.

All good pubs are organic , constantly evolving, trying new things and the customers notice this and they repay the publicans effort with continued custom.The pub business has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, from being closed for an afternoon holy hour and early closing time, the age and type of pub customer has changed. As society changes and the considered norms of the past such as drink driving, smoking in pubs, early houses have become the taboos of the present day , the publican has had to adapt. This has been hard for many who were classically trained old school publicans who were naturally suspicious of change and were set in their ways.The old style publican was in their time the guardian of the locality, the parish priest to the troubled customers, the bank to those in need of sudden funds and the police knew that a good publican kept his house in order and it saved them time and trouble.

So as we have changed culturally in the last 20 years or so  and adapted some of the great New York bar culture and mixed it with our own and as we have become more  health aware, gastro loving, late night , wine and cocktail aficionados , then naturally the pubs have had to adapt to a demand from the fast moving internet generation . This will take time and naturally there will be collateral damage but there will always be good pubs because people will always want to socialise and interact in a bar /club environment for all the base reasons they always have, to meet boys and girls, to get drunk, have fun and not remember anything the next day . The publican just has to adapt and give the punters the experience they want, in 1953 it was pies, draughts and a sing song around the piano and  in 2013 its a bit of Rihanna and a bruschetta, we are still going out just later and leaner.

Find out more about The Boogaloo at the official website


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Keith Wildman, Sabotage Times writer and pub connoisseur 

First and foremost its about the beer. For me it has to serve hand pulled real ale - with a sparkler. Even better with an autovac. A good selection including always serving a mild and stout or porter, and not just light hoppy beers that seem to be the current fashion. And a good session ale.

I'm not overly interested in bottles, but a few bottled foreign beers always look nice.

Food in a pub? I don't go to a pub to eat, I'd rather go to a restaurant. That said, pork pies and anything you can eat in a bowl are pretty much a must as you will eventually get hungry - pie and peas, chilli, stew. 'Gastropubs' tend to be pretty soulless and at their worst lead to the place being cluttered with prams and baby seats.

A roaring fire, a snug, proper tap room and lounge. Stain glass leaded windows,  brass or wooden bar, no stainless steel in sight.

Clean toilets are always a good sign, if they make the effort to keep those clean then you can be fairly sure the places you can't see will be clean.

Dog friendly is a must. Man's best friend should be able to accompany him to the pub.

No kids. Pubs aren't there for toddlers and babies. They're there for adults to enjoy a drink, free from having to worry about tripping up over kids or minding their language.

Finally, a good pub is about the people. Landlords come and go, bar staff come and go. Sometimes the regulars may go with them, but in the main, a pub lives and does by it's regulars. Get a good set in and they'll be loyal. They'll run your pool team, darts and doms, come in for your quizzes. Have their birthday and anniversary dos with you and tide you over on a wet Wednesday night. Without good people, a pub isn't a pub.

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Beer Journalist & Author

Good beer, whether cask or craft keg or US/Belgian bottled imports. Good food, whether scotch eggs and pork pies or thai or fish and chips. Comfort, the sort of place you can lay your hat and never leave and chat and convivality but also silence and monkish solitude if necessary. Clean loos and welcome to all, a democracy