Last week I received a very depressing update in my Facebook news feed. It was from Inn the Round and said:
“Regrettably we have to let everyone know that our plans for Gloucester’s first micro pub have had to come to an end. Whilst we really believe it would have added much to the city’s real ale scene we faced many challenges to achieve compliance with planning requirements. To achieve these in the end would have required far more resources and driven the set up costs far beyond what was achievable for us. We would like to thank everyone who showed their support.”
Inn the Round was a micro pub planned to open in a former pawnbrokers shop on the corner of Southgate Street and Llanthony Road. Apart from the fact that I have been looking forward its opening for months now, I was depressed on two counts.
Firstly, on a personal level, the above statement represents the end of one man’s dream. Here we have someone who believed in Gloucester enough to put his neck on the line and try to open a business in the city. Having spent months investing his blood, sweat and tears – not to mention money – into the venture, he was finally thwarted by planning requirements.
Looking at the wider picture, however, this also depresses me for the future of Gloucester. I agree with the statement above that Inn the Round would have been an excellent addition to the city’s real ale scene.
A micro pub is so named not just because it is small, but because it sells exclusively cask-conditioned beers from small micro breweries. They don’t sell spirits or alcopops and they shun the big breweries.
Micro pubs in other cities have proved very popular and with its location near the Quays, Inn the Round could have not only thrived for itself, it could also have perhaps tempted people out into Southgate Street to the benefit of existing pubs such as the Nelson, Tall Ships and Whitesmiths. It could have played a role in regenerating a very run down part of the city which should be forming a much-needed link between the Quays and the city centre.
I have no particular insight into how this whole thing has played out, and I am in no way doubting that City Council did everything correctly in enforcing the planning regulations, but I don’t think that is enough.
At the moment the Quays are doing very well at attracting restaurants, but they are all the same old franchise places that you find everywhere. As the city’s regeneration continues, with plans for Blackfriars just announced, we need to ensure that Gloucester retains its individuality.
For that to happen we need to actively encourage small independent businesses. They need support, both practical and maybe even financial, to enable them to create something interesting and unique for the city.
The alternative is that Gloucester just becomes another boring ‘any town UK’ and I think it deserves better.
(I wrote this article for the Gloucester Citizen and it was published last Friday 30 May)