Cambridge & District CAMRA
Cambridge Drinking Circuit 1998-2001
Cambridge & District CAMRA is extremely concerned about the formation of
a "drinking circuit" in Cambridge
Youth drinking circuits of large bars have been a feature of larger town & city
centres since the late 1980s and have caused immense public order problems.
They've also distorted the local pub trade, harming community pubs and therefore
consumer choice. Some city authorities are now taking action, refusing
permission for new city centre "beer barns".
Unfortunately Cambridge licensing magistrates and planners are behind the times
on this and have been happy to grant permission for developments.
The developments we mean are listed below. They are all large bars in various trendy
town-centre styles, all of which aim to make most of their money from young
customers on Friday & Saturday nights.
As described in our key article, these are fine individually.
It is the ensemble which is so threatening, especially when there's a lack of other types of
nighttime venues in the area.
These would broaden the appeal of the city centre to other age groups and interests, diluting the effect
of so many youth bars.
Back in 1999 many of the big bar and pub chains announced plans to switch from their trendy
themes to "community" ones - they've realised that's what works in the long term.
The pace of development has indeed slowed down.
However as of 2001 there's no sign of any progress and indeed the public
order problems have attracted a lot of media and government attention.
The young persons' venues and similar branded outlets
St Andrews Street area
- Regent Street
- Hogshead (Laurel Pub Co., formerly Whitbread)
- (Prince Regent & Fountain already there)
- Cambridge Pub Co. - converting former Pierre Victoire restaurant in Autumn 2001
- The Yates Group were apparently interested in a site for a while
- St Andrew's Street
- The Regal (J.D. Wetherspoon)
- All Bar One (Six Continents, formerly Bass)
- Castle (Greene King redeveloped it in 2000 to fit the style)
- (Dôme restaurant - Laurel)
- Downing Street
- 2nd Rat & Parrot (Scottish & Newcastle)
- (Quinns already there)
Market Square to King Street
- Market Hill
- (Starbucks opened in July 1999)
- (Borders, with the 5th Starbucks, opened in June 2001)
- Market Passage
- Planned: the old Arts Cinema is to become a large McMullens Brewery continental-style bar.
(See Pub News - Cambridge, Spring 2001.)
- King Street
- Cambridge Rattle & Hum (Greene King, converted from Cambridge Arms)
- (King Street Run already there, as well as St Radegund, Champion of the Thames and Bun Shop)
Quayside, Bridge Street and Trinity Street area
- Quayside (see pictures)
- Henry's (Greenalls, now owned by S&N)
- Quay Bar (Six Continents, formerly Bass)
- (Starbucks opened in August 1999)
- Thompson's Lane
- Rat & Parrot (Scottish & Newcastle, converted from Spade & Becket).
They seem likely to sell off or rebrand this due to its poor location (in terms of drinking circuits and expected sales).
It was intended as a competitor to Henry's
(see the 1997 review) but now they own both.
Possible rebrands include their
new "Bar 38" youth theme
or the even newer "Football Crazy" or "Baroque" mediterranean cafe bar (young professionals & students) themes.
- Bridge Street
- Mitre (Six Continents, formerly Bass) - as part of the Allied Domecq pubs sale to Punch Taverns, Bass got the pick of the pubs.
As predicted here, they bought this Festival Ale House (they bought all of them) but thankfully the
they chose to convert the off-Circuit Fresher & Firkin (Chesterton Road) to a tacky
"It's A Scream" student theme bar.
- (Seattle Coffee Co., a subsidiary of Starbucks, inside Waterstones, as of 1999 - the franchise changed in 2000)
- Trinity Street
- Blue Boar (Yates Group)
- Green Street
- Slug & Lettuce (SFI Group; briefly a Parisa cafe-bar)
For the future
- Other large bar chains are likely to join in, as Cambridge is ten years behind in these developments (but
catching up rapidly).
- The Grand Arcade scheme (between Lion Yard, St Andrew's Street and Downing Street) is due to be built between
2004-2007 and is planned to have cafe/bars.
St Andrew's Street
Articles & News
- The sequence of events so far.
- Circuits elsewhere
- A collection of news items on drinking circuits elsewhere, to put the development of the Cambridge one in context.
- ALE 283, More Pubs for the City?, Easter 1996
- Back in the beginning
- ALE 292, On The Circuit, Nov. 1998
- What it's all about - why it's bad news for consumers.
- ALE 293, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, Feb. 1999
- A general review of the big pub chain business and examples of cities which are trying to get to grips with the problems.
- ALE 294, Pubco News, May 1999
- With statistics on the high cost of trendy theming for bars.
- And finally... The Regal opens, September 1999
- And, as feared, it's enormous, so it will establish a major drinking circuit in the area, with all
the bad effects which follow.
- Problems at The Regal & progress with the R&P II, October 1999
- R&P II waffle, November 1999
Cambridge & District CAMRA