Whatever you or I may think, one of the success stories of the 21st century must be Wetherspoons. It actually started in Muswell Hill in 1979, and has now grown to an estate of over 800 pubs. It must be doing something right.I personally have no objection to them, I go somewhere different, do not know the pubs but if I come across a 'Spoons I know at least I will find real ale and decent food.
One of the charms of the chain however is their conversion of older properties into bustling, functional pubs. Many of them worth visiting for their historical character alone. The 'Richard Oastler' in Brighouse being a local one that proves the point. Who would consider that a converted methodist chapel could be made into a pleasant, airy drinking establishment. Who knows what its previous residents would think about it though?
Recently I have come across a couple of new ones which seem to buck that trend. The beer and food are still there, as is the commitment to quality, but the buildings themselves leave me cold. Functional rather than comfortable, modern rather historic, these seem to be more in the style of an airport lounge and not somewhere I particularly want to relax and spend time.
The newest one I visited is the 'Percy Shaw' in Halifax, and previous to that the 'Cuthbert Broderick' in Leeds. Both are new buildings ,or are in new buildings in the case of the 'Percy Shaw' and seem to be a monument as to what can be done with glass and steel. The trouble is that neither of them possess what I class as 'soul', a place to meet and move on.
The 'Percy Shaw' is part of the Broad St complex, a new build, across from the Bus Station, and on the first floor of that complex, so to get to it involves a climb up a lot of steps. It does have 10 beers on handpull, and a view across the valley, it is clean and bright and fresh. But sadly, it is not for me. The same applies to the 'Broderick' which is at the top side of Millennium Square. Another prime situation, but another lacking the wow factor.
It is possible that I have been unlucky and the latest two pubs in the chain, have both been new buildings, but I much prefer the older, more comfortable conversions of previous years. Surely there must be empty buildings out there just crying out for a 'Spoons conversion, I certainly hope so. But no more converted bed shops please !!!