Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Wheatsheaf, Water Lane, Ashton, Preston

The decline of a local pub often follows a familiar, slippery descent with accentuated with clawing grabs at survival as they descend unstoppably into the abyss.
First there may a drop in trade, followed by a couple of quick changes in management.
With the new face behind the bar failing to tempt stay-away customers back in, a series of quick attractions are hastily thrown together to turn the place around. But the arcade machine remains redundant and there are better quizzes around.
With men already outside measuring up the anti-vandal window guards, a desperate publican may turn to discounting, heavy discounting. When you see boards outside pleading for you to come in and get hammered and still have change from a tenner, the death call may not be far away.
So, when I handed the barman at the Wheatsheaf a £2 coin and he returned with a pint of Pride of Pendle and a small clutch of change, an alarm bell immediately rang.
But the thought was but momentary.
Independent brewery Amber Taverns bought the pub, a former Last Orders, a couple of years ago and seems to have made the pub into a major success.
The pub is big, open and clean with huge screens all around the place, literally showing wall-to-wall live sport.
With a guarantee of being able to get a good view of a game, groups of football supporters head straight for the pub on match days, while many five-a-side football teams will also traipse in after their games.
But the pub is more than a hulking great sports bar. Set close to a dense housing population in Ashton, it stands as a really good community pub, while others close down.
Old chaps will sit in a quiet corner (the same seat they have always sat in) reminiscing  about how ‘These Premier League lot these days are a soft bunch rolling on the floor’.   
Couples, young and old, will stop in for a drink or do battle in an organised games night.
While many suburban community pubs drop off the map, the Wheatsheaf shows, there is hope yet.

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