How not to manage a pub or retail business

For many months The Great Northern Railway Tavern pub in north London remained closed, with the occasional bit of activity from workmen. Because it is a glorious Victorian building (including a rare set of lamps fixed to the bar and impressive glass skylight) anticipation of its opening was high in the office.

Magic Victorian architecture, duff 21st Century service.

For years it had been a rather run-down forlorn boozer (albeit with decent Thai food) with a down-at-heel clientele so when owners Punch Taverns decided to invest some money to give it a serious clean-up and to polish its impressive interior and add a decent menu things were looking good.

However, on the three visits made to the pub since its re-opening the offer has been shockingly shambolic. It certainly gives me no pleasure recalling those experiences on this website but it will certainly highlight how not to run a pub or any ‘retail’ business for that matter.

The first visit was the best experience although it was disappointing that they had removed all the bar stools and were unwilling to stock any snacks – the choice therefore was either buy a full meal as they suggested or go hungry or leave. The lack of snacks certainly cost them another round of drinks in the case of the visit.

The second trip involved a new rule, whereby children were no longer allowed in the front bar. Not great, but no big deal. However, the food was a bigger deal as it was sufficiently disappointing for the manager to not charge and to also provide a complimentary pint of beer.

At least there was beer because the third visit was notable for the lack of such liquid. Not even any Guinness. It was lager, wine or spirits. We were now in ‘pub with no beer’ territory.

Unfortunately things appear to have deteriorated even further as a notice has been appearing on the door in recent weeks stating – ‘Cash Bar Only – sorry for the inconvenience’. So from no beer the pub has gone into no fully-functioning tills either.

It is with regret that will unlikely be venturing into the pub again to find out what other elements of the proposition are missing. But throughout this deteriorating offer the pub’s interior remains a beacon of hope.

Hope in that one day Punch Taverns, or whoever else might be running the pub in the future, will get their act together and provide this great Victorian building with the service, offer, and TLC that it deserves.

Lessons to be learnt here for all businesses. Certainly a failure to get the basics right is a fast route to failure.