Mon. Feb 26th, 2024
alert-–-top-gear-star-turned-publican-james-may-reveals-the-secret-to-the-perfect-pub-(and-why-boozers-should-run-painting-classes-and-spanish-lessons-if-they-want-to-survive)Alert – Top Gear star turned publican James May reveals the secret to the perfect pub (and why boozers should run painting classes and SPANISH lessons if they want to survive)

Former Top Gear star James May – who is part owner of a village inn – has revealed the way to success in the bar trade is to have ‘clean bogs and good food’. 

Otherwise, he claims, people will not want to visit and spend money. Those bars who are reluctant to change are destined to fail. 

James, who is part owner of the Royal Oak in Swallowcliffe, Wiltshire said fewer people going to pubs and that things have changed dramatically over the past few decades. 

Figures have shown that one in four pubs in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have closed since 2001. 

The Campaign For Real Ale said a further 30 bars are shutting each week, while dozens are been illegally demolished or used for different purposes without securing the correct planning permission.  

James May, pictured, is part owner of the Royal Oak bar in Swallowcliffe, Wiltshire

James May, pictured, is part owner of the Royal Oak bar in Swallowcliffe, Wiltshire 

He invested in the local bar in the village where he has a holiday home to ensure its future

He invested in the local bar in the village where he has a holiday home to ensure its future

He said: ‘I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. In this day and age a good pub has to serve decent food.

‘Not all bars can be blessed with a good location. I live in London and my local pubs in Hammersmith, Chiswick and Fulham are located near the river. The best spots have outside areas which are brilliant during the summer. 

‘But, I believe that for pubs to survive in future they have to adapt to the times and provide more activities. 

EXCLUSIVEREAD MORE: The town where two out of three pubs have closed since 2001

‘There are too many pubs. There are people who complain when a pub shuts down, but it has closed because it was not good enough to survive.’ 

For James, a radical rethink could allow businesses to thrive into the future. 

He said: ‘Imagine a pub where you could learn how to paint, or learn Spanish or maybe woodworking. The people who complain “we are losing the pub” are the very people who are never seen in the bar. They like the idea. The role of the pub in society has changed.’ 

His idea of hell would be a sports bar with dozens of screens showing the latest game from the Icelandic third division, which another providing updates from a ten-pin bowling competition from Alabama. 

‘I don’t go to sports bars. When we opened the Royal Oak, we made a decision that there would not be a television. Then people asked if they could watch the Women’s World Cup and the Rugby World Cup. So, we changed our mind. Although there is no television in the background. It is in the bar for major events and that’s it.

The former Top Gear star, pictured, believes pubs have to radically change if they are going to survive into the future

The former Top Gear star, pictured, believes pubs have to radically change if they are going to survive into the future

He said bars should consider activities such as paint classes or Spanish lessons to encourage people to visit

He said bars should consider activities such as paint classes or Spanish lessons to encourage people to visit

‘We are a restaurant, if I’m entirely honest. We take pride that our chef sources 90 per cent of his produce from within 15 miles – which makes us somewhat like a farm shop – something which Clarkson has more experience with.’

The type of people going to bars and pubs has also changed which is hastening the change in the industry, which some see as marking its decline. 

‘People are sentimental about old world pus where people would say “the landlord was good because he kept the beer well”. 

‘These places were a “home from home”, where single men came in for some food because they could not look after themselves. They have to move with the times. 

‘Pubs cannot compete with supermarkets when it comes to the price of beer. I think it is staggering that it’s at least a fiver a pint. Petrol is cheaper.  

‘Now we have Deliveroo and takeaways. The world has changed.

‘I was in Sligo in the west of Ireland and I was in this wonderful pub that was part  hardware store and part bar. You could sit down and order a pint, a hammer and a box of nails. It was brilliant. We need more of that.  

One trend in the bar trade is the growth of microbreweries and the availability of a wider range of beers. 

James, pictured with co stars Jeremy Clarkson and James May returns to Amazon Prime with The Grand Tour: Sand Job on February 16

James, pictured with co stars Jeremy Clarkson and James May returns to Amazon Prime with The Grand Tour: Sand Job on February 16

‘It is a dream for most people that they could open a pub, talk to the locals and make a fortune. It is a difficult business with long hours and low margins. 

‘We hired an excellent manager to take care of the business. He pays little attention to what we say. Ours is a free house so we can source our beers from anywhere. Some microbreweries are terrible. 

‘We stock some of the expected beers such as Peroni, but we also have Guy Richie’s beer which is brilliant. 

‘We also have an extensive wine list as that is now expected.’ 

Commenting on his own bar, James said: ‘We have incredibly welcoming and great staff. We are not cheap but we are not outrageously expensive either. 

‘There is a balance. We have seen the cost of ingredients increase, along with energy bills and staff wages. 

‘I am very proud of it. I only invested in this because I have a cottage in the village and wanted to be able to walk to the pub for a pint. 

‘It looks after itself.’ 

James added: ‘The most important thing to have are clean bogs. People always complain.’ 

The next edition of The Grand Tour is coming up on February 16 and James May in India is currently on Amazon Prime. 

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