On the positive front, the City Council has refused planning permission to convert two pubs – the Carpenters Arms Victoria Road and the Unicorn Cherry Hinton – into housing. There's more about this in an article elsewhere. The Council also threw out plans to redevelop the Royal Standard, Mill Road as student accommodation. Although this has operated as an Indian restaurant for several years, it could, as things stand, be turned back into a pub. Finally, the application to demolish the Rosemary Branch, Coldhams Lane and build houses and flats on the site has been withdrawn.
Now the bad news. In the last issue we reported that Greene King had sold the Zebra, Maids Causeway but we didn't know who were the new owners. Predictably it turns out to be a developer though they haven't revealed their plans; a spokesman for the selling agents said the purchaser thought it an “interesting property” when snapping it up. Given the Council's new-found determination to protect local pubs, a lot of that interest may well have worn off.
Greene King are also looking to flog the Grove in Arbury Court and the Cambridge Sikh Society is in negotiations to buy it for use as a community centre and place of worship.
The Queen Edith, Wulfstan Way closed in December with landlord Paul St John-Campbell declaring himself bankrupt. A couple of years back, owners Punch Taverns applied for planning consent to build housing on the site but this was rejected. Since then Paul has made valiant efforts to turn the business round and it's sad to hear that a £12k tax bill was the back-breaker. Punch's intentions aren't yet clear.
Back to the positives and the Cambridge Tap is still scheduled to open at the railway station in February.
Out in Willingham, Chris Warren has applied to turn the old Lloyds Bank building in the High Street into a “micro pub”. This would be the first of this very welcome new breed in our area. The movement started with the Butchers Arms, Herne, Kent, which opened in 2003, measuring 12' by 14' and with seats for 15 people. Since then a further five have appeared with more in the pipeline. The Willingham pub would specialise in local real ales and we've strongly supported the application – especially given that three of Willingham's five pubs have closed in recent times.
The week starting 20 February sees the first beer festival at the Maypole, Park Street, Cambridge. It's being held to celebrate 30 years since the Castiglione family took over the pub and which they now own outright, having bought the freehold off Punch a couple of years ago. Another development at the Maypole is that they no longer show Sky Sports. This is partly down to the cost (£18k a year) but mainly because it was actually putting customers off. Most folk visit this brilliant pub to enjoy the amazing choice of real ales without extraneous entertainment. An exception to the no-sports rule is likely to be Rugby internationals which are of course available on terrestrial channels.
The Fountain, Regent Street, Cambridge has reopened after its major refit. The ground floor has been totally reconfigured with the bar counter now on the opposite wall. This has enabled the windows behind the old bar to be revealed, giving more natural light. The décor is stylishly modern with mauves and greens predominant on the walls and a polished cement floor. The stainless steel bar counter is especially attractive. A shame though that the 1930s windows on the Regent Street frontage couldn't have been retained. The number of handpumps has grown to six, occupied by beers from Adnams, Elgoods and Oakham plus Westons Cider and two changing guest ales. The bottled beer selection has also increased to embrace the likes of Orval, Kwak and Goose Eye. Food is served Wed – Sun, 12 -3 and 6 – 9.30 with mains in the £10-£14 range. Tapas are available all day, even until the 3am closing time. Rooms on the upper floors are also now in use for functions and dancing.
Cogratulations to regulars at the Duke of Wellington Willingham who raised over £3000 as part of the Movember moustache-growing charity event. The team of six included landlord Barry who shaved off his face fungus, grew it anew, shaved it off at the end of the month and has now started again.
Good to see several Greene King managed houses in Cambridge offering a diverse range of ales. The Granta for instance had the inevitable IPA but also Abbot Reserve, O'Hanlons Goodwill, Titanic Iceberg, Howells Frosty Bells (brewed by Belhaven) and Thwaites Lancaster Bomber. The Baron of Beef had Nethergate Umbel and Elgoods Black Dog as well as three GK beers.
A pub which hasn't had a mention in ALE for many years is the Wagon & Horses, Margett Street, Cottenham. Tucked away in the village back streets, this old-fashioned free house deserves to be better known. The real ales, Adnams Bitter and Courage Best, are sold at a bargain price (for the area) of £2.80.
At the Red Lion, Histon, building work should be nearing completion when you read this. The left hand bar is being extended backwards to create more space for dining which will now be available Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evening plus Sunday lunchtime. Marc is also increasing his handpumps from seven to nine whilst chucking out the standard lagers in favour of genuine imported examples.
Josh from the excellent Green Man Grantchester has also taken on the Clarendon Arms, Clarendon Street, Cambridge and intends running it with real ale very much to the fore. More news next time.
Welcome to Graham Bullard who is the new licensee of the Alex, Gwydir Street, Cambridge. Food should have been reintroduced by the time you read this (Noon – 9pm) and Graham plans other changes over the coming months.
It seems highly likely that the Chestnut Tree, West Wratting will be bought from Greene King by a group of villagers. GK are asking £235k for the freehold and a Save the Pub group has been established. The aim is to turn the pub into a community business, with a low share price which would allow all interested villagers to buy a stake in the venture. We wish them well. Something similar may happen at Orwell where Punch have put the Chequers up for sale for around £500k.
The White Horse Pampisford (Greene King) is closed and has a sign in the window to say it has ceased trading. The brewery's intentions aren't yet known.
And so to our customary round-up of pubs currently on the market. Greene King are still seeking new tenants for the Bakers Arms Fulbourn, Dog & Duck Linton, Jenny Wren Cambridge, Hop Bind Cottenham and John Barleycorn and Wheatsheaf, both Duxford. On the sales front, Everard Cole have three Punch pubs up for grabs freehold – the Haymakers Chesterton (£425K), Reindeer Saxon Street (£425K) and Chequers Orwell (see above). Christies have the King William IV Heydon (£845K) and Pheasant Great Chishill (£595K) on their books while Fleurets have the aforementioned Chestnut Tree West Wratting and also the Red Lion Brinkley, though this is “under offer”.