Look At It This Way - April 20, 2012

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There’s a singular irony in the fact the new Localism Bill could be used to help save – a local pub.

Even Queen Victoria might be amused by that. So raise your glasses to the community spirit of a group campaigning to save an historic St Annes pub from being replaced by retirement flats.

(They call them apartments in St Annes.)

I don’t doubt there’s a need for more retirement fl-apartments in St Annes although a look at existing properties pitched at that market reveals a positive plethora.

But if location, location, location is all important the development would no doubt prove popular.

However, when I retire I’d quite like a pub on my doorstep as much as the next drinking man or woman.

I’m a relic of the day when journalists were harder drinking, Boddingtons bon viveurs. The Vic was a favourite tippling place to toast the weekly “putting the paper to bed” ceremony that accompanied each edition of the Lytham St Annes Express.

It was the equivalent of today’s weekly forward planning conference but more fun, accompanied by a pint, or half, or the newly-discovered joys of white wine spritzers for the sophisticated and health conscious hackette about town in the ’70s and ’80s.

Ideas flowed – more from the chance to chat on neutral ground than the drink. Pubs are great levellers. The newsroom caste system ends as soon as you realise the office junior is more likely to get a round in than the news editor.

Other pubs figured on our rounds. There’s a real ale house at Lytham which remains a bastion of traditional hacks to this day. The poseurs amongst us favoured Burlington’s rather beautiful wine bar in St Annes. You could get a posh scampi provencale for a song there and emerge reeking of garlic. It was bad news for anyone on the receiving end of interviews but good news for reporters because it meant they gave you the facts fast and scarpered for a gasp of fresher air. I still deploy the same tactic the morning after the restaurant review the night before.

Sentiment apart, the Victoria Hotel remains that rarity in a plasticised homogenised age. A proper pub.

Campaigners hope to use the Localism Bill to challenge the plans at the public inquiry next week and turn it into a Community Interest Concern.

That’s precisely what a proper pub is, or should be. You don’t even go there to drink. You can get that at home cheaper – well, until the Coalition’s Prohibition begins. You go to a pub to get away from the house, the kids, have a natter, talk sport, politics, soaps, hatches, matches, and dispatches and how your arthritis is playing up, and feel at home. But without the hassle of washing up afterwards or having someone else count your units.

If campaigners have their way there will be other reasons to go to the Vic too – community associations under the same roof, a micro-brewery, a restaurant. What’s more it marks the first serious challenge under the Localism Bill said to “empower” residents to shape their neighbourhoods. More empowerment to their elbows, say I.