On Thursday news started to buzz around the Twittersphere that the Lass O’Gowrie in Manchester was to close today. I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes (or as good as one can get nowadays) in the Manchester Evening News.
The newspapers quite rightly state that it was voted pub of the year by The Morning Advertiser but you just need to look at the Lass’s website to see that it wasn’t a fluke. As I said in my tweet the Lass O’Gowrie is everything I love about this amazing city and many will agree I wasn’t being overly sentimental. Walking into the pub made me feel like I was in the Manchester I grew up hearing about far, far down south. In a good way of course! There were old men at the bar, ready to chat to anyone who came within a metre radius, there was every type of bar person; the pretty young girl, the buxom one, the landlord, every character you needed in a pub that was handily located a stones throw from Manchester city centre.
But how far do stones travel?
A few years ago I met a business contact who owned a venue on Charles Street, a block down from the Lass. He was a nice man, father of 2 young boys, married to a scouser but still ok and obviously had more money than sense.
His wife had talked him into opening the former nightclub as a music venue with idealistic notions of paying everyone a good wage including the bands (a rare quality in many venues, mainly because it’s very hard to do) and blinded by love he’d gone ahead without any planning and things weren’t going well.
With additional issues at the small restaurant they also ran in West Didsbury, on top of his day job as a solicitor, he turned to 303 solutions just in time.
Base cafe & bar was in a sorry state when I got to it. The venue, split into 2 floors with separate bars on each level, was being hired by a group of Jamaicans but they only used one floor for most events so the plan was to open the basement with a minimum outlay and try to pick up some passing trade.
Oxford Road is synonymous in Manchester for student nightlife, great travel links, most of the University is based somewhere on it. Every Friday and Saturday night it’s alive with lights and music, in the Summer (before the student exodus at least) tables and chairs spill out onto the streets in that trendy European way. It’s a good place for a basement student bar surely, even if your up the road a little bit?
Well no, it turns out students nowadays can’t even turn their heads or rotate their eyes in their sockets effectively enough to look left or right. this is a pretty disturbing thought as there’s a pretty busy junction intersecting Charles St and Oxford Rd. Maybe there’s a lollypop lady there at peak times to keep the student death toll down and I was just never there early enough to see her…
I can imagine some Green King executive in an office in Leicester or somewhere insignificant like that, who’s never set foot in a decent pub let alone ran one thinking that sized pub in that location should be taking ‘that’ sort of money but without herding people in against their will Charles St licensees and managers only have so many options.
So the Lass O’Gowrie’s licensee made it the best boozer in town (technically the country). Well done you. He could have tried to compete with the likes of Odder or Kro but it wouldn’t have worked and the entire staff of the BBC building wouldn’t have loved it till the day they moved away. The Lass was the sort of pub I would go to if I was in the area because it wasnt loud and studenty.
Unfortunately I’m never in the area anymore and my apologies that I wasnt able to be a customer more than I was. You never appreciate what’s there till its gone.
Of course the pub wont disappear. Green King will refurb it and plant another licensee in before we can blink but it wont be the Lass O’Gowrie not just because a pub is its people especially the landlord/lady but because Green King have spat on someone who is doing a good job and mud like that sticks. I admire the way Gareth Kavanagh and everyone at the Lass handled the situation, it must have taken a huge amount of restraint to not scream from the rooftops in protest.
Maybe that was a mistake? 303 solutions have handled situations like this before and utilised public support early enough to make a difference.
But this isn’t a time for what ifs, this is a time to pay our final respects to Mr Kavanagh’s hard work and the beauty that was the Lass O’Gowrie. I know what it’s like to fight with all that passion (5 years running the Bierkeller to finally be crushed) so I honestly wish you well. I would say if we ever meet I’ll buy you a pint but I think the generosity of this city will keep you drunk for many months. Green King might not of appreciated your efforts but please know there are many of us who do.
And thanks for lending me ice pretty much every night for a month!!!