Couple's third pub shows scale of real ale's pulling power
A COUPLE are breathing new life into the real ale circuit in Hull's historic Old Town, thanks to a hat-trick of high-quality drinking establishments.
Alan Murphy and Chrissy Fleming have been running Walters in Scale Lane for five years.
Last year, they opened the Lion And Key in High Street, just at the end of Scale Lane.
The couple bought the premises, which opened as a pub in 1817 and was latterly known as Durty Nelly's, after the business went into administration.
Book a table for 4 and get £10 off with this voucher. When ringing quote: “This is Scunthorpe” promotion. Your email address.......................... (if you want to receive vouchers in the future)
Terms: Cannot be used with any other offers or vouchers. Print voucher or show us the voucher on your phone.
Contact: 01724 281289
Valid until: Monday, June 24 2013
Following a full refurbishment, Alan and Chrissy reopened the pub under its original name of the Lion And Key.
Now, the couple are reaffirming Scale Lane's position at the heart of Hull's real ale circuit with the opening of Hawkes.
Alan said: "We never planned to have three pubs, but when Jaz Bar shut down next door we were worried it would affect trade.
"Then Durty Nelly's went into administration and we panicked, as that was a key pub on this route.
"There was a circuit that people would travel to from outside of the area. We feared that, if that went, it would hit us.
"So we bought Durty Nelly's to save the circuit, after which we bought premises in Scale Lane that had been derelict for a number of years, and opened Hawkes."
Alan said providing a consistent experience for real ale connoisseurs had been key to the couple's success.
He said: "We decided from the outset we wanted to specialise in cask beer.
However, when we opened Walters, there was not the demand for it. But we started with eight hand pumps, now we have 26, so it continues to grow in popularity.
"The main reason is we wanted to support the local economy – we'd rather see our money going back into the local area than to a big international brewing company, and all of the beers are brewed within a 50-mile radius of here.
"People are becoming more aware of what they are buying, and want to support the local economy, too.
"We also don't provide 'entertainment', like karaoke nights, as our aim is to be consistent. We want our customers to know whether they come in here on a Friday night or a Tuesday lunchtime, they will get the same experience.
"We take the view our customers have a lot of conversation in them, so do not need to be entertained as such."
The couple's success comes at a time when record numbers of pubs are shutting their doors.
Figures from Camra reveal 12 pubs close each week in Britain, while research by insolvency trade body R3 found 35 per cent of the county's pubs and bars are at risk of failure in the next 12 months.
The blame for this worrying trend has been directed to a number of places, from crippling pub ties to cheap supermarket booze, yet Chrissy points out the ever-growing popularity of real ale means it can be a wise choice for landlords.
And Alan and Chrissy are so confident in its attraction they have removed all lager pumps from Walters – a move some feared would be commercial suicide, but which has actually increased trade further still.
Chrissy said: "I think the reason real ale pubs are becoming so popular is because you cannot recreate the experience at home.
"You can have a lager at home and it will taste the same, whereas you cannot enjoy a good hand-pulled cask ale without going to a pub.
"Some people say they don't like it, but Alan will often get people to have a taste. Once they've tried it, they tend to love it.
"Most of our staff are in their 20s and they drink real ale so it's no loner associated with spit and sawdust or people with beards."
The building in which Hawkes is situated has been lovingly restored, and retains many original features, as well as some reclaimed items.
And its opening is helping to further fuel Scale Lane's real ale revolution, with Cook's Endeavour – the restaurant opposite Hawkes – now also selling hand-pulled beer.
Chrissy said: "When we opened the Lion And Key and then Hawkes we thought we might see a slight dip in trade at Walters as people would be spread across the three pubs, but if anything it's had the opposite effect.
"We are now seeing more new faces all of the time."