Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Wetherspoons Effect

"It sounds to me like that would be too much of a concentration of pubs. It would have been nice to have a restaurant there. That would be quite welcome." - Beverley and District Civic Society Chairman Sandy Patience.

A familiar quote from a familiar source. When Wetherspoons look to target their next expansion project, the local councillors raise their wavering objections, and the locals engage in polite uproaraty, dismissing plans over cups of tea and adding unhappy comments to the bottom of online local news stories. JD Wetherspoon might be one of the country's main success stories during the recession, but this alone does not appear to be winning proprietor Tim Martin any brownie points.

It's hard to imagine the cities of Britain without Wetherspoons pubs. What they lack in sophistication and character (despite the efforts of renovation to keep up the pretence of happy and traditional local pubs) they endeavour to make up for in low prices and a fairly wide menu - although I challenge anybody to choose poached salmon when there's a perfectly good Beer and Burger offer sitting right next to it. They have long been the starting point for any hen night pub crawl or cheap celebration, and in the setting of a city centre, they perhaps only slightly add to the Binge Britain epidemic that still powers through the streets every Friday and Saturday night. In villages though, should there be different regulations? After all, small town inhabitants crave a steak night as much as their metropolitan counterparts.

[The Winter Gardens in Harrogate - Picture courtesy of CAMRA]

There seems to be something almost adolescent about Beverley's transformations. Once a pretty little market town, this be-minstered cluster of thatched cottages and butchers' shops has grown steadily into a large town, which in my own mind is likened to the size and gangliness of Morecambe (a cruel measurement to use, I apologise). With a college, several schools, new housing developments and most recently the much bemoaned Tesco sprouting up out of the ground, Beverley is less like a village, and more like those strange boroughs of Leeds, which were once seperate, but are now only distinguished by their own church and a quaintly-named local boozer. Beverley has thankfully retained it's character and grace for the most part, but would a Wetherspoons make an Armley's-worth of difference in a town that has a large Mexican-themed fun-staurant and more pubs per square centimetre than market stalls?

It seems a shame that despite Wetherspoons' lacklustre reputation, it remains the fastest-growing aspect of the leisure industry in this country. There are similar one-sided disputes whenever the JDW renovation van sputters into town, but as with similar projects, such as the huge Winter Gardens Wetherspoons in Harrogate or the recently opened Bowling Green in Otley; they open, they wait, and the customers arrive.

Perhaps if you truly oppose the idea of a corporate pub on the end of your street, you shouldn't frequent it when it opens.

[Some information was found within the pages of the Hull Daily Mail - read their somewhat biased story on the Beverly Wetherspoons proposal here.]

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