Not far from me is a local pub. Quite handy for a local. It has stood on the same spot for over a hundred and twenty years. It's never been particularly fashionable and it's never won much in the way of awards and rosettes.
The manager of my local pub, ‘The St Andrews', has a problem. This isn't a ‘someone's been piddling on the seat' issue nor a ‘chav has thrown up on the connie machine' problem.
Sully, the owner of the pub, took it over when it was in a state of disarray. The custom was low, clientele a little disinterested, apart from the hard core regulars and the standard of fare on offer was pretty dismal. Within a few months of assuming ownership Sully controversially sacked the old manager, who was a favourite with the old timers, and brought in a new landlord called Bruce.
The place was done up. The walls were painted royal blue, new signs erected (some of them were even spelt correctly), toilets were polished and the entertainment updated. Sure enough there was an instant success and the old local had become an upgraded, flash, posh, wine bar that attracted a whole new clientele as well as a few of the old codgers.
A lot of the old regulars complained bitterly about the influx of the new customers who were content to drink overpriced flat lager and eat overpriced prawn sandwiches. Sully didn't care. The money was flowing in as he realised that some folk would come to his establishment no matter what was on offer.
This all worked reasonably well for a few years but started to go downhill when Bruce decided to change the style of entertainment and replace the young and hungry band of players with a selection of old timers who were more interested in scoring one last tour of duty than actually entertaining the faithful punters.
During the honeymoon period Sully had also made some strange decisions that only served to alienate his client base. Firstly he realised that the majority of money was spent on Friday and Saturday nights, closely followed by Sunday dinner time. The rest of the week was quiet. Therefore to accommodate this Sully designated Friday night and Saturday night as ‘category A', Sunday dinner was ‘category B' and the rest of the week was ‘category C'.
The beer for category A times was £3.00 per pint, for category B it was £2.50 and for category C it was £2.00. Sully also declared that the lounge would now be called the ‘ATC', in honour of his favourite gardener, and all punters wishing to enter the ‘Alan Titchmarsh Centre' would have to pay an annual fee. All food orders would also be subject to a £1.50 booking fee. Everyone else charged it so Sully charged it.
The juke box was removed and replaced with Sully's favourite classical music which was piped through at a thousand decibels preventing any conversation. Annoyingly, most of this music was played when Sully was not present despite the numerous protestations of the regulars. A new compere was brought in after the previous incumbent mysteriously disappeared after upsetting a coach load of Chelsea Pensioners.
Recent visitors to ‘The St Andrews' couldn't believe how quiet the place was. There were plenty of empty seats and very little atmosphere. Sully was moaning. Bruce was moaning. Where did it all go wrong? Bruce thought Sully's idea of overcharging was a bad one whereas Sully suggested Bruce had brought the place down with his insipid idea of entertainment.
Sully made some drastic attempts to recover the lost punters including allowing children into his establishment at reduced rates. All this did however was to encourage the local chav brigade and turn the place into a den of iniquity which drove the real customers even further away. Bruce made his own attempt to draw back the crowd by borrowing a couple of new band members from another pub called ‘The Gunners'. Despite the talents of the new boys the crowds mysteriously refused to return. Even Sully was shocked. His marketing midas touch appeared to have deserted him and it wounded him deeply.
The truth was that many of them had left. For good.
The beer was still too expensive for the entertainment on show.
The entertainment was inferior to that being shown a few years before. The management failed to realise that a large part of the attraction was the travelling players rather than the house band.
No one, apart from the Queen and the local music teacher, wants to hear classical music.
Many of them had also found that life existed away from the pub and they no longer craved its hypnotic draw after years of cultish devotion. Some found that they had families and after a week of working hard it was better to spend the hard earned money on the appreciative few rather than the faceless owners of the pub who constantly rattled the collection tin under their noses.
Whilst most had been away in the pub other modes of entertainment had arisen, competed and made huge efforts to attract the client base of ‘The St Andrews'.
The public had also become aware of the phenomenal amounts being paid to the incumbent players some of whom declared themselves unfit to perform but still took the wages of sin.
Coupled with the cost of watching the performance, the poor catering, the utter utter apathy of the staff and the ostrich attitude of the owners, the situation clearly is in need of a massive overhaul.
This is where you come in! My mate Sully wants you to tell him what would make you return to his establishment in order that he can provide decent entertainment and take the place onto the next level. He needs paying customers.
Basic maths and economics will help initially. Twenty five people paying £2.00 per pint is better than sixteen people paying £3.00 as there is a fair chance of them parting with extra cash once on the premises. Plus the extra pound!
If you were a former regular what made you leave and decide to do something else? Some folk have tried to recreate the experience by sitting in their armchair with a can of cold beer and the radio on. Of course this is nowhere near as realistic but cost effective, warm, inviting, familiar, just as informative and still returns a sense of loyalty.
Anyway keep right on. Not sure where to though.