My interest in micropubs began about a year ago with an article in the Daily Telegraph. It seemed a simple idea and the article suggested it was something that would probably grow. That got me thinking because I have always wanted to run a pub and with retirement approaching in the next 5-10 years this seemed the sort of thing I could do to keep me busy.
A year further down the line and I thought it was time to do more reasearch. The current concentration of micropubs seems to be centred on either Kent or the East Midlands. Kent is miles away from both where I work and where I live so my destination of choice was Little Chester Ale House in Derby. Despite being born and raised in Loughborough, a short drive from Derby, I have never been to a pub in the city or driven into it. It is therefore a city I know nothing about except for one trip to the old Baseball Ground many years ago.
Little Chester is situated within a mile of the city centre. Apparently it used to be a dry cleaners and is on a fairly busy road on a corner with a side street of terraced houses overlooking a very pleasant green. From the outside it looks like a pub albeit a small one. The central door leads you into what I would consider to be a nice cosy snug but this is the main bar. The bar had four handpumps so the place has a cellar. Many micropubs serve beer straight from the barrel but not here. The beers available were all new to me so I was spoilt for choice. I've described the magical pint of Great Heck Dr Rudis that I chose in my last post. What is important to describe here is the service. I was immediately asked if I had tried the beer before and when I answered in the negative was firmly told I had to try a sample first. Service at its best.
The bar area was tiny. There was a small fridge underneath the counter with a few bottles of wine and soft drinks. Bottles of cider were also available. No optics from what I could see. No food except for a few classic bar snacks. All in all a very tidy ale house. The front room was all I was expecting and it had four or five tables with basic wooden chairs. Nicely decorated and a very pleasant atmosphere with a gathering of about a dozen customers chatting away. Off to the side of the bar was another small table and at the back was an even snugger snug with a single table and a few stools and chairs. Overall it could probably cater for 30-40 cusotmers at a time.
My first experience of micropubs is therefore very positive. I can see why they are taking off from a customers perspective. I wish I had one local to me. From an economical standpoint I wonder how much money they can turn over. They obviously cannot cater for coach parties but their overheads must be tiny compared to many pubs and considering I visited early on a Thursday evening I have been to many larger pubs at this time of day and seen fewer customers. When I visited, the opening hours of Little Chesters was 3.00.pm-10.00.pm Thursday thru Sunday but they do have plans for all week opening.
The thing I really like about Little Chester is they keep things simple yet despite the simplicity the customer is made to feel important. It is that emphasis on giving what the customer wants that will see a continued growth in the number of micropubs. It would be nice to see the day when every town has a micropub or two as well as a Wetherspoons. As for my future plans, I am going to do more research and it is now at the forefront of my mind. If any micropub owners out there would like to assist me with a business plan I'd be happy to talk about it over a few pints.
Until that day comes, happy drinking.