I see in yesterday’s Citizen that Marston’s are planning to open a new pub at Gloucester Quays near Sainsbury’s. With my well known love of Gloucester pubs you may imagine that my joy is unbounded by this news, but you’d be wrong.
I can see that in some respects this is good news. The Quays has been criticised for the lack of eating and drinking establishments, so this will help to alleviate those concerns. However, the move troubles me on a couple of levels.
Firstly, pubs generally are having a rough time at the moment. I blogged earlier in the week about the closure of the India House in Barton Street and have since discovered that the Duke of Wellington in Tredworth Road has also closed. Okay, so these pubs are nowhere near the Quays, but it shows how fragile some pub’s existence is at the moment. The Arkells-owned Inn on the Docks, formerly the Sir Colin Campbell, is nearby and has been closed since the end of last year.
There are still a number of excellent pubs around the Docks: the Whitesmiths, Tall Ship, Nelson, Baker Street, Foster’s on the Docks and Coots. As far as I can tell, none of these pubs has benefited from the development of the Quays in the way that I hoped they would. This is largely because once you are in the Quays development you are completely closeted away from the rest of Gloucester. I would much rather see these existing pubs brought into the development in some way, even if just by the inclusion of some signposting.
My second concern is that the idea of a new-build pub chills my soul. I would love to be proved wrong, but I imagine that it will be a soulless place built along the same lines as all of the other franchised eating places that always spring up in such developments. Think Nandos, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquitos, etc – places that seem to be designed by people who have had restaurants described to them, but have never actually been to one.
It seems a huge shame that such a place should drag much needed trade away from the genuine, character-filled, existing local hostelries. However, business is business, and I don’t imagine that Marston’s hearts will bleed too much if they take trade from their competitors. Fair enough, I suppose. But, if they are going to do that couldn’t they do it in a more interesting way. Surely there are existing buildings of character that could be re-developed and pressed into service rather than going for a new build. The former Waterfront still lies empty and it was a superbly atmospheric building right on the quayside.
Whilst on the subject of closing pubs, I have just set up a web page to attempt to keep track of progress (or otherwise) on Gloucester’s closed pubs – if you have any more information or updates I’d love to hear it.