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HS2 THREATENS AWARD-WINNING PUB

 

As the debate and uproar concerning HS2—the high-speed rail link promising swifter UK connections than ever before—continues, the fate of affected pubs up and down the country remains unclear.
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It seems that many landlords are currently being held in limbo, unsure what awaits them and their businesses in the years to come. Those owners with pubs on or near the proposed line, at worst, face demolition to clear space for new tracks and developments. At best they may be looking at fearful proximity to the high-speed trains as they rumble past windows and beer gardens.

The Bree Louise, situated on Cobourg Street just off Euston station, is one such pub that may well find itself in the firing line. Falling under the territory earmarked for the expansion of Euston to accommodate HS2, the award-winning venue was all set to be reduced to rubble. However, with new designs now under consideration that would see a double-decker station with a smaller footprint, things might not look so bad.

Craig Douglas, the pub’s landlord, said of his future prospects: “It might go through, it might not . . .  it’s not going to happen on time or on schedule . . . obviously it will be horrific for me.” The former Harlequins rugby player has transformed his pub over the years from a generic sports and lager venue to something rather more special.

With its constant rotation of unusual real ales, craft beers and ciders the pub was awarded CAMRA’s Pub of the Year 2009/2010. In addition to this, the absence of music, fruit machines and television in Craig’s pub come together to prove one of his heartfelt beliefs: “the art of conversation is not dead”.

The buzz and that faint yeasty smell of proper beer as you walk through the door, are the sort of re-assuring hints of authenticity that are all too rare these days. The level of custom on a Monday night attests to the appeal of such places, and Craig appears to love his customers as much as they love him.

Expressing his concern about what may be ahead he stressed that “all the lovely real ale drinkers would lose their drinking hole”.

Not only has Craig developed his business in Euston, but his life too. He and his family live above the pub and with a son not due to finish his education till somewhere around 2020, the disruption would be no small matter. He explained: “I own the lease and live above it . . . this is my retirement fund.”

Even in the face of such potential personal difficulties though, Craig can still see the bigger picture. Calmly but forcefully he said: “Forget about me, me, me! What about the local community?” As has so often been remarked throughout the reportage of HS2, one of the great ironies of the project is that the prosperity the railway aims to bring about, is seemingly being bought at great cost to that which already exists.

Ilovegoodbeer magazine  19/11/2013