Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Closing Time

[First published in my online Sunday Mercury column "Toby Jugg", September 2008:]

I just returned home from watching the scary thriller The Strangers at the Cineworld on Birmingham's Broad Street.

But for all that movie's chills and blood spills, the evening's most horrific moments look place a few hundred yards away in Bishopsgate Street, at the City Tavern.

I had an uneasy feeling as I walked into the fairly tiny bar and noticed seven of the eight beer taps were turned around to indicate that particular brew was out of stock.

Raising my voice so I could be audible over the blaring television in the corner of the room, I jokingly asked the glumfaced barman if there had been an unexpected influx of real ale fans.

No, he explained, the management had put the entire array of bitters on tap, found no customer base whatsoever and were now abandoning the strategy before it cost them any more money.

A sad story, but another reason for the scheme's failure occurred to me as I began to drink my pint of the sole remaining bitter, Fox's Nob. Never before have I been led to suspect its title originated from the beer being brewed in a vulpine urinal. (I must point out I have enjoyed Fox's Nob in the past, but this clown was serving up pints of pure vinegar.)

By this juncture, my companion had turned up and was looking askance at the insipid half-pint of Fosters he'd ordered. Little wonder that when we left shortly afterwards, there were only two victims customers remaining on the premises, being slowly deafened by Adrian Chiles on BBC1.

It's obviously sad when a pub goes this far downhill, but boarding up that particular hostile hostelry would be a mercy killing.

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