There has been much wringing of hands locally at the news that town centre pub the Flying Shuttle is to close. The Bury Times broke the story here and although they obviously never read this blog or indeed their own archives, judging by the factual errors, you can read between the lines to see where the problem lies. Now the Shuttle has had a somewhat chequered history as I made clear back in 2008. However the fact remains that it is in a great location and reeks of untapped potential. The notice of its closure caught people on the hop as it was assumed that as it was so obvious what needed doing with it, that it was only a matter of time before Thwaites revamped it.
Bury is now ranked the 3rd most popular retail destination in Greater Manchester with only the city centre and the Trafford Centre being more popular. On one side of town lies the multi-million pound development The Rock whilst on the other side is the famous Bury Market and the shopping precinct. The flying Shuttle lies between the two. It has no competition unlike the cluster around Wetherspoons and is right next to a multi-storey car park. The footfall is impressive. It has kitchen facilities and should be knocking lunches out for the hungry masses while serving foaming pints of real ale. But it isn’t. Thwaites are not wrong: business is poor. So what’s the problem?
Well Thwaites themselves have to shoulder some of the blame. Their approach to it (and several others in Bury) seems to be of the hands off variety. Which would be great if that worked well but it hasn’t. The pub has completely missed its target demographics. Running it as primarily a live music (heavy metal/alternative) venue may get a select crowd in at weekends but misses the boat the rest of the time. Shoppers pass it without giving it a thought and the real ale drinkers find sparse pickings. It cannot sustain itself as a music venue but seems to have forgotten that it’s a pub and where it is. Having mentioned it to people, the response is along the lines: "it's a club now isn't it?" or "I thought it closed years ago." Even worse is the fact that many visitors seem totally ignorant of its existence.
Ironically Thwaites have often been criticised for ‘modernising’ their pubs. In this case, it was crying out for it.