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Pub/Bar of the Month October 2018: Roscoe Head, Liverpool, UK

Roscoe Head, Liverpool, UK

My quest to feature on these pages all the pubs that have appeared in every edition of the Good Beer Guide has reached its conclusion – and perhaps just in time.

Roscoe Head, LiverpoolRounding off my tour of ever-present pubs – now down to just five* – is the Roscoe Head, a small but beautifully formed sidestreet local in Liverpool’s university district, named after an 18th/19th-century campaigner against slavery whose portrait swings in the pub sign outside.

Everything about this little watering hole seems just right. A step up from the street leads into a central hallway with access to the single bar. Branching off are three small rooms.

The snug on the left is tiny – no tables, just a shelf and room for a few stools. The other two rooms follow a pattern, with olive-and-brown upholstered bench seating serving three or four tables, each focused around a fireplace filled with an iron stove.

Dark wood panelling features original bell-pushes for service and old brewing prints and advertising mirrors provide the décor.

On the bar counter, two banks of handpulls offer a choice of six cask beers from breweries big and small – Tetley Bitter and guest ales from the likes of Timothy Taylor, Peerless, Big Bog and Hawkshead. An assortment of hot pies is available from a cabinet on the counter.

Sense of Order

Landlady Carol Ross – whose family has run the pub for more than thirty years – is a straight-talking Liverpudlian who offers a warm welcome.

The atmosphere is convivial and homely but – typical of the best of pubs – there’s a sense of order here that allows everyone to have a good time without spoiling the pleasure of others.

Conversation, discussions and banter are the key, there is no piped music and, while there are a couple of TV screens in corners, they are not switched on. Entertainment is, instead, provided by quiz and cribbage nights.

Sadly, dark clouds are gathering over the Roscoe Head. A couple of years ago, Punch Taverns sold the establishment to New River Retail – described on its website as ‘a leading property investor, manager and developer specialising in convenience-led, community-focused retail and leisure assets in the UK’.

New River has been criticised for closing a number of pubs and redeveloping them into other commercial ventures and, while Carol’s lease still has a couple of years to run, there are currently no guarantees about the pub’s future.

The fact that this is a popular local, doing good business, may not be enough to keep this place alive, and forty-six consecutive years in the Good Beer Guide will probably count for nothing.

‘Save the Roscoe Head’ T-shirts, on sale at the bar, provide the most visible sign of a fightback by Carol and her regulars, which has also garnered a great deal of media attention.

Frankly, if the decision is made to close the Roscoe Head and a viable, high-quality, community-focused pub like this is lost then once again money and short-term gains will have achieved another shallow victory.

Pubs like the Roscoe Head are the glue that holds society together and you can’t put a price on that.

Roscoe Head, 24 Roscoe Street, Liverpool L1 2SX
Tel. (0151) 709 4365
Opening Hours: 11.30–midnight; 11.30–11 Monday; 12–11 Sunday

*The other four pubs featured in every edition of the Good Beer Guide are:
Buckingham Arms, London SW1
Queen's Head, Newton, Cambridgeshire
Square & Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset
Star Tavern, Belgravia, London SW1

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