It’s been a while since regular updates were made to this blog, partly due to the fact I was being paid to write and so didn’t have time to supply my brilliance for free, and partly due to a global pandemic which has killed millions and crippled the hospitality industry. But now, when the government have precisely zero chance of getting anyone to follow lockdown rules again, I think I can safely say that pubs, and this blog, are back.
As many venues were expecting a quiet Christmas and an even worse January I felt it was my duty to head out in the first week of the new year to put some money over the counter of the local Marston’s, who had furnished me with a three course meal on Boxing Day and thoughtfully not added a plastic toy to the complimentary cracker, but a £5 voucher to be used before Jan 31st. My party of two were the only people in the pub at tea time on a Tuesday, with the staff understandably taking it turns to have a sit off. I’ve been to this pub, the second newest in Runcorn, called the Ten Lock Flight, on a number of occasions for food. It’s not really a drinkers’ pub. It has a children’s play area and a pizza kitchen, and it’s pretty clear they’re not interested in having locals propping up the bar. They do however have a number of events which they put on, the upcoming ones being a Marvel Quiz and a Tolkein Day Lord of the Rings quiz. We had just missed the Buble impersonator.
Something I have noticed about this pub in particular is that they are tip averse. When you pay by card you are prompted to add tip or continue without, but I’ve found that the staff either tell you to press continue without tip or actually take the machine and do it for you. I wondered whether this was because of the inevitable pushback from locals who believe tipping is for the rich and the American, or whether something else was at play.
By law, the staff have to be given their tips, (thanks to the Cheshire Brewhouse on twitter for confirming this), but I discovered when they are paid by card they are rounded up at the end of the month and distributed equally among all the staff who have been on shift in one lump sum. Our waitress confided that someone had tipped £100 on Christmas day but due to the system, it had pushed up their monthly earnings and ended with them all being taxed more, as they mostly earn under the tax threshold a year on their part time hours. Not what the kindly gent hoped for, I’m sure. Hence they are not too bothered about tips through the machine and prefer the cash which they can just pocket without Rishi Sunak getting involved.
Marston’s do Hobgoblin IPA and Shipyard, both of which I’ll happily drink and which are not available anywhere else locally, so not the eye rollingly pedestrian choices they are at other places. The beer is always well looked after and seems to sell well, this is not the type of chain to be fussed about getting in locally brewed ale. They’re keen on their seasonal cocktails even though the staff sometimes look like they have never heard of the BerrySmashSupreme which is flashing up on screens across the entire pub. I’ve not been tempted yet but maybe if we win the Lord of the Rings quiz…