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Pub/Bar of the Month October 2012: The Taps, Lytham, UK
The Taps, Lytham, UK
I am constantly amazed at how some publicans get it so wrong.
There they are struggling to pull in trade and they haven't the faintest idea of what to do about it.
Usually they fall back on installing a few more TVs, cranking up the music or hawking colourful promotions for bottled Caribbean lager, hoping this will do the trick.
Some are too lazy to even do that. I saw one sorry pub recently where the only thing it could boast about on the blackboard outside was Carling at £2.90 a pint.
And yet the answer seems so elementary. Some of the best pubs in the country operate on a less is more basis. They just provide a basic but homely environment with few electronic intrusions (if any), line the bar with well-kept cask ales and let the customers get on with it.
The occasional games tournament, quiz evening or good value bites to eat may spice things up but otherwise it's just ale and conversation that keep the punters coming back for more.
I was struck by the honesty and simplicity of the formula when I visited The Taps. Tucked just behind the market square in the well-heeled seaside resort of Lytham – adjacent Blackpool in reverse – it’s a rather plain, red-brick building broadly rectangular in shape.
The first thing that catches the eye as you enter is the sawdust on the bare-board floor, a way of saying, it seems, that here there is no standing on ceremony: relax and enjoy yourself.
Lifting your eyes, you then take in an open-plan single bar, wider than it is deep, with benches and stripped-wood tables set out around the fringes. A couple of brick pillars, surrounded by cushion-topped old wooden firkins, form island perching areas and the beer references continue with assorted tap paraphernalia clipped to the walls.
There's a tie collection pinned to the ceiling, a bold display of CAMRA award certificates and a motley gathering of sporting trophies, whose presence, no doubt, inspires fond memories in certain, older regulars.
In the open kitchen, they carve hot roast meats for sandwiches – the high-point of a short, pretence-free menu that also features burgers, chilli and lasagne – while at the bar the staff in smart green polo shirts give their biceps a thorough workout pulling pint after pint of the splendid ales.
Eleven handpumps top the bar counter, one of which is for cider. It's a mini-beer festival everyday here, with beers from Titanic (including house mild and bitter) clearly popular in these parts.
Guest ales are announced on the blackboard to the right of the bar. They might include brews from Moorhouse's, Coach House, even St Austell.
Locals enjoying pint-and-paper time, perhaps fighting with the crossword, share the room with visitors who are in town for the benefit of the Irish Sea air. One cheerful old girl is thrilled she has found a pub where she is not frowned upon. 'Is it alright if I come in on my own?,' she asks, knowing already that the answer will be positive.
As I leave, a backward glance reveals an inscription I hadn't noticed before on one of the beams. It reads: 'The Taps. Theatre of Ales'.
I've only enjoyed a brief, matinee performance but it's clear that here is a pub providing a masterclass in simple hospitality that so many witless publicans would do well to attend.
The Taps, Henry Street, Lytham, Lancashire, FY8 5LE, UK
Tel. (01253) 736226
Opening Hours: 11–11; 11–midnight Friday & Saturday; 12–11 Sunday