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

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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
www.roscoehead.co.uk
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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