Thursday, 4 November 2010

Who wants another chain pub?

 The fight to save the iconic and 'much loved' Glasgow pub, Tennent's Bar has stepped up a gear and intensified after local  MSP Pauline McNeill  put forward a Motion to the Scottish Parliament which calls on it to 'note the strength of feeling against potential changes' and that the pub is not only a 'landmark' but also a 'Glasgow institution'.

The Motion, put forward on the 3rd of November, to the Parliament and supported by MSP Willie Coffey comes hot on the heels of internet campaigns and i-petitions designed to put pressure on new owners Mitchells and Butlers not to gentrify and turn the historic West End landmark into a gastropub.

Mitchells and Butlers, which has a portfolio of approximately 2000 pubs, recently acquired Tennent's and are considering an extensive refurbishment to the pub during the April/May of 2011.

Tennent's is an integral and iconic part of Glasgow pub culture. This traditional Victorian corner pub which sits in the heart of Glasgow's West End on Byres Road has been an institution since it opened in 1884. It has twelve handpumps dispensing nine regular ales from breweries such as Harviestoun, Orkney, Caledonian and Timmy Taylor as well as three guest ales. There is a real fear not only among its regulars but also the wider beer/pub community that Mitchells and Butlers intend to move away from the traditional real ale pub and rebrand and repackage it a restaurant/bistro/gastro pub.

In their defence, Mitchells and Butlers say that "We are looking at making some changes such as increasing the size of the kitchen. The pub is to be operated under the Nicholson's badge, our collection of historic pubs operating across Britain which all share a passion for Real Ale, traditional pub food and local heritage at their core".

For many Glasgow beer drinkers, it is unthinkable to consider Tennent's not being in its current incarnation this time next year. Instead, it could be another homogenous bar/bistro serving over priced beer and food in a place stripped of its history and legacy. That's a horrible thought.

You can add your name to the save Tennent's petition here -


  1. My brother used to live just round the corner from the Tennants Bar. I thought it was cool that you could order a pizza from the pizzeria next door and they'd give you a "pizza pager" so that you could go next door and have a pint.

  2. i remember the pizza pager too. what i dont understand is why M and Bs would want another pub so close to the Curlers Rest which they have just bought, refurb'd and re-opened

  3. I have been holding back to write about this because it's not entirely clear yet what M&B are actually proposing, and they're keeping pretty stumm. Rebadging it as a Nicholson's is definitely a bad sign. I fear the worst. This is the same outfit who tried to stop the Horse Shoe selling pies, remember.

  4. This is what the M and B spokesperson said -

    “We understand that many people are concerned with any planned future changes to the pub. Whilst no plans have been finalised ... we are looking at making some changes such as improving and increasing the size of the kitchen so that we can serve even better quality traditional pub food.

    “The intention is for the pub to be operated under the Nicholson’s badge, our collection of historic pubs operating across Britain which all share a passion for real ale, traditional pub food and local heritage at their core.”

    Whilst it is true that they haven't finalised any plans yet, a little bit of public pressure to convince them of their future error of their ways should they go down the restaurant/bistro route is to be commended. It just might work, you never know.

  5. Do they currently serve food? I must admit, I don't know the pub.

    Nicholson's have taken on a number of 'historic' pubs and not ruined them. The Philharmonic in Liverpool, for instance - I was there last week, still looked the same as before, food had improved, beer quality improved.

  6. They currently serve food from a tiny little kitchen. The usual pub fayre of steak pie, fish n chips, scampi, etc. Very limited menu all for around 4 or 5 quid. I've been in a few M and B pubs that have been nice and have been served a few well kept beers there but I in terms of the petition, I think that folks main concern isn't that M and B are taking it over but that it might end up another generic gastro-pub with no link to the tradition and history of the pub that has gone before it.

  7. Did M&B really just take it over? Surely they are the descendants of Bass Retail or whatever they were called who had it in the first place?

  8. If they have had as long as you assume then why have they only now decided to have it taken under Nicholson's wing. I don't know the lineage from Bass to M n Bs, I just thought that it was a recent acquisition and were now moving swiftly to possibly take Tennents in a different direction.

  9. Pubcos rebrand stuff all the time. M&B are keen to promote food-led pubs and their MD even said he'd rather talk about "licensed catering outlets" than pubs. They also recently sold off a bunch of wetled pubs. It's part of a process.

  10. In addition to the online petition there is also a petition book on the bar of Tennent's. So it might be a good idea, if you are passing, to pop into the pub and show the staff and punters your support by signing the book.

  11. Love the negativity around Nicholson's without actually knowing anything about them.

    The best chain of real ale pubs in the UK, who own some of the most iconic and historic sites in London and out of London.

    For those that doubt this have a look at The Coal Hole, The Philharmonic (as someone mentioned above), The Old Bell, The Clachan, The Scarbrough Taps, The Old White Swan . . . . list is endless!