There has been barely contained excitement and a few raised eyebrows at the news that Bury town centre is to get a new pub. An empty shop on Haymarket St, last occupied by Betfred, has been acquired by Amber Taverns who have been granted a licence for the premises. Those with long memories will remember that it was once the Rayners Vaults. Dating from the latter part of the 19th century, the Rayners was once part of the Raven Hotel before becoming a destination in its own right. I recall it as having the ambience of a Wild West saloon and certainly some of the characters who frequented it would have felt right at home in Dodge City. It was the kind of place that if you went in and they saw you still possessed all your teeth, the locals knew you weren’t a regular.
But times change and despite, or perhaps because of, its small size, Bury has done well in recent times in terms of its pub stock. Unlike many other town centres, people do still come into the centre to enjoy a drink. There are two Wetherspoons, a well-known freehouse, a Holts pub and representation from the usual regional brewers and pubcos. The last opening; the Clarence, brought a brewpub and fine dining into the equation. So what will the new venture offer? A craft harem of whisky barrelled-aged, Brett infused Dandelion & Burdock Stout, perhaps? One of those new-fangled micrpubs? Somehow I doubt it.
If you look at Amber Taverns portfolio, it’s rather less than impressive. A lot of bottom-end pubs that they’ve bought up cheaply. Locally they do own Hogarths in Bolton which does offer real ale but generally it’s either not available or an afterthought in most of their estate. They’re not big on dining and seem unlikely to be able to compete on price with the likes of Wetherspoons. They do seem to be keen on sports but it’s hard to see where their target audience is coming from. With the shift in Bury’s shopping geography, the pubs in the centre are technically on the wrong side of town and tend to rely on a set pattern of clientele. It maybe that they have their hopes pinned solely on weekend trade but it seems most likely that it will end up like the ‘Oirish’ bar round the corner: full of tumbleweeds for most of their trading hours. However, I’d be happy to be proved wrong.