Two Punch Taverns pubs in Cambridge are currently closed and up for sale – the Haymakers in Chesterton
and the Carpenters Arms, Victoria Road. In both cases, the asking price is believed to be around £400k
which seems a bit steep – unless, of course, you're a property developer looking to exploit a site and
build lots of flats (c/f the Duke of Argyle, Hat & Feathers, Penny Ferry, Jubilee etc).
CAMRA will therefore be keeping a close eye out for any unwelcome planning applications –
though the City Council's lack of planning policies to protect pubs might then become a problem again.
Late News In goes a planning application to convert the Carpenters to seven flats. We have of course objected, pointing out that the city has now lost 13 pubs since 2008 with six others currently shut and facing an uncertain future. We also feel that, in the right hands, the Carpenters would be a perfectly viable business, especially if it was able to trade as a free house.
Planning consent is already being sought to replace the Royal Standard in Mill Road with 16 units of student accommodation. The Standard has operated as an Indian restaurant for the last few years though there'd be little to prevent it being converted back to a pub – and in the meantime two nearby pubs (the Duke of Argyle and Jubilee) have shut, leaving Romsey Town short of hostelries. CAMRA has objected to the planning application and there is much local opposition to the loss of yet another community facility.
Greene King have submitted plans for significant alterations to the Fort St George on Midsummer Common Cambridge. It's only a few years since the pub was last renovated, changes which saw the spoilation of the delightful snug. What's there now lacks much character so the new plans can't really do much damage.
The Black Bull, Longstanton reopened in July after lengthy closure for building work. The interior is now open plan with the bar at the front and a large Chinese restaurant beyond; the latter doesn't open until October and in the meantime just one rotating real ale will be on sale (the pub is completely free of tie). On a recent visit St Austell Tribute was the offering. The Chinese take-away service still operates and has a separate entrance from the car park.
The four-pound pint has arrived on the scene. That's what you'll pay for a pint of Wells Bombardier (4.1%) at the Golden Ball, Boxworth.
South Cambridgeshire District Council has refused planning permission for change of use of the Plough Shepreth to residential. They (quite rightly) say that this would result in loss of a valuable village amenity and they also consider the pub use to be economically viable (which, in the right hands, it certainly would be). We now wait to see whether the applicants (MPM Properties of Royston) will appeal against the Council's decision.
Greene King have put the Zebra, Maid's Causeway, Cambridge on the market through January's estate agents. The advert states that it has “potential pub use” (well,yes....) but ominously adds “suitable for a number of other uses”.
As briefly mentioned in the last ALE, the Hopbine, Fair Street, Cambridge has reopened under the stewardship of Steve and Hayley who also run the Portland Arms. The pub is now owned by a lady from London and let to Steve and Hayley on an initial one-year lease which should roll forward if the venture succeeds. The interior has been spruced up, mostly by way of deep cleaning and redecoration. To the left of the entrance is a bare-boarded area with pool table while to the right and rear floors are largely carpeted and the ambience is comfier. On the beer front, full advantage is being taken of the free of tie status. On my visit the pumps were occupied by Cliff Quay Bitter, Green Jack Trawlerboys, Brains SA and Lord Conrad's Gubbins. The last is a new wheat beer and ales from all our other local small breweries (Milton, Fellows and Moonshine) have also appeared. Bar supervisors Sam and Liam are real ale fans and promise to ring the changes constantly. A decent selection of reasonably-priced continental bottled beers is developing. Food majors on pub classics, mostly within the £6.95 to £7.45 range and available noon – 9pm. On 12 November a Whisky tasting master-class is happening, with a chance to sample many different styles and learn about the drink's history and production; tickets are £15. The Hopbine promises to e a great asset to the city centre real ale scene.
The Cricketers in Melbourn Place Cambridge has reopened under the name it had when built in 1838 – the First and Last. An impressive refurbishment sees removal of the pool table, fruit machine and jukebox and installation of a cool, classy decorative scheme, with walls painted in shades of blue and the lovely oak floorboards revealed. The front section stays pubby (and there's televised sport in the left-hand bar) while the area leading to the garden has more of a restaurant feel. Food will be a big feature here and chef Lee Havers presents an ambitious menu of home-made, scratch-cooked dishes using local produce where possible. Main courses range from Chicken and Chorizo Mixed Salad (£9.95) to Rib-Eye Steak (£17.95) and there are daily specials too. At lunchtime there's a choice of lighter offerings. The pub remains tied to Greene King but manager Mark Harris intends to make maximum use of GK's guest list and rotate ales on the three handpumps. Big selections of whisky, gin, rum and wine complement the beers. The background music will always be Motown, of which Mark is a huge fan.
Great to pop in to the Carlton, Carlton Way, Cambridge and find “business as usual” following the extensive repairs necessitated by the fire at Christmas. The choice and quality of the real ales and ciders is as good as ever and, in fact, you'd hardly know the pub had been away, which is just the ticket.
A warm welcome to Mike Lenthall who has taken over as manager of Wetherspoon's Tivoli, Mitchams Corner (Chesterton Road), Cambridge. Mike previously managed the Standing Order in Stevenage where he earned the pub a place in the Good Beer Guide and grew real ale sales by 600 pints a week. He's determined to achieve the same levels of real ale success at the Tivoli so you can expect an excellent selection of beers on the eight handpumps. There'll be none of the differential pricing you now see in some 'Spoons pubs as all real ales will be £2.35 a pint – unless you're a CAMRA member (and if not, why not?) in which case you'll pay just £1.99. Mike also intends to have at least one LocAle always available plus one a month actually chosen by our Branch. By the time you read this, the Wetherspoon's autumn beer festival should be in full swing at both the Tivoli and the Regal.
The Dobblers on Sturton Street, Cambridge has joined the ranks of pubs offering a discount to CAMRA members – 10p off a pint of real ale on production of a membership card. Emma Mitchell and Dave Elbourne have just successfully renewed their Cask Marque accreditation for the ninth year running. They usually have four or five real ales on the pumps – Wells Eagle and Bombardier, Youngs Bitter and one or two guests. This is a proper community pub with, according to Emma, “a great bunch of regulars”. Sport is big here with lots of pub teams and screenings of various events. There's no food other than basic snacks which also makes a nice change these days. Well worth a visit.
Finally, our customary round-up of pubs in the area presently on the market. Greene King seek tenants for both their pubs in Duxford – the Wheatsheaf and the John Barleycorn (where Bernard Lee, who came out of retirement to rescue the business, is now hanging up his bar towels). They also have available the Dog & Duck Linton, Hop Bind Cottenham, Jenny Wren Cambridge (one of our few keg-only pubs), Queens Head Harston and Queens Head Fowlmere – the last is on a free of tie cask ale deal “to the right applicant”. Enterprise have leases for sale on the Red Bull Newnham, Rupert Brooke Grantchester, Three Horseshoes Comberton and Black Horse Melbourn. Christies are still trying to flog the King William IV Heydon (£845k), Pheasant Great Chishill (£649k) and Blue Lion Fen Ditton (price on application) – all three have been on the market for ages now.