In which The Author defends a local pub for local people
(This was sent to the South Wales Echo back in January 2003, but wasn’t printed. However, enough people objected to the plan by Brain’s Brewery to change the pub that it was shelved, and at the time of writing it remains one of the handful of decent boozers in the centre of Cardiff.)
Ten years ago, when I started working in Cardiff, I explored various pubs to try and find one I liked. Over the next couple of years I drank, on and off, in the Four Bars, the Philharmonic, the Queen’s Vaults, the Great Western, the Park Vaults, the Rummer Tavern, the Horse and Groom, and the Rose and Crown.
One morning I awoke with the following punning sentence fully formed in my mind: St Mary Street was a deep depression consisting of tightly packed eyesore bars.
Being partly of Irish descent, I put it down to a random firing of neurons resulting in some Joycean psychological wordplay. I did not imagine it to be a vision of the future.
Since then, the Great Western, the Four Bars, the Queen’s Vaults and the Rose and Crown have fallen victim to corporatism. St Mary Street is full of theme bars aimed at the student population, or chain pubs selling beer in plastic mugs, and plastic food from plastic menus to plastic people.
Fortunately a couple of my work colleagues introduced me to a whole new experience. Tucked away on the corner of Chip Alley there’s an Irish pub, run (get this!) by Irish people, frequented by Irish ex-pats, where the people behind the bar take the time to get to know the punters. We can even walk in on match days, when the place is six deep at the bar, and get served as soon as we’re spotted by any of the staff. It’s a local pub in the middle of a soulless, impersonal bar scene, and we love it.
Now Kitty Flynn’s is back in the hands of the brewery, and set to become a ‘music bar’ – in the midst of God knows how many clubs, bars, discos, and music venues. In the company’s relentless quest to capture the thinly-spread ‘youth’ market, they are going to start hosting live bands. People like me, who go there to drink, to chat, to have a laugh, to enjoy a proper pub atmosphere, are going to be sidelined once again.
May I suggest that the new ‘music bar’ kicks things off with a Queen tribute band? They could start their set with ‘Another One Bites the Dust’.