Changing social scene leads to demise of Penrith pub

Date: Friday 25th September 2015
Andrew Bateman and Julia Templeton outside the General Wolfe
Andrew Bateman and Julia Templeton outside the General Wolfe

THE General Wolfe pub in Penrith is set to close next weekend, with licensee Andrew Bateman blaming its demise on changing drinking habits and the availability of cheap alcohol in supermarkets.

The pub, in Great Dockray, was for many years a favourite of drinkers in the town and in its heyday was busy each and every night, also having two successful football teams as well as darts and pool teams.

However, business has declined over the past 10 years and Mr. Bateman, who is the longest serving licensee in the town, believes it is down to a number of factors including the rise of social media and cheap supermarket alcohol.

He took on the pub in 1995 when he was aged 23. It was owned at that time by Penrith businessman and former Blues nightclub owner Robin Johnson. In 2000 the pub was bought by brewer Daniel Thwaytes and then taken on by Mr. Bateman himself six years ago.

He moved into accommodation above the pub in 1995 and lived there until three years ago when he moved to Drovers Lane, taking some time to adjust to the lack of noise having previously lived above a bar.

“When we started, there was a real buzz in the town but times have changed. Supermarkets are cheaper and people have entertainment systems and things like Facebook,” said Mr. Bateman.

“People can stay in the house more so the dynamics of the job have changed. People come out later and don’t stay out as long. When we opened people lived for the weekend and every night of the week there would be people meeting and that’s really changed. Through the week it’s not worth opening now, it’s just not viable,” he said.

“For the first 10 years it was really good, there was that social scene. But now people don’t have to leave their homes to socialise. We used to do a lot of sport in the pub but that’s really declined. We used to have a good football following but Sky has become too expensive for us. It’s over £2,000 a month now.

“It’s very difficult to even break even. Takings have declined to about one third of what they were. It’s not busy enough to make money. In the last five years I’ve not made on it.”

Mr. Bateman said he was not sad about the Wolfe closing but instead looked back on his time there as a fantastic 20 years.

He will continue to run the Ambleside Tavern, Ambleside, which he said was going “really well”. He is also looking at other business opportunities in Penrith and has number of rental properties.

The future of the Wolfe itself remains uncertain along with the prospects of its 10 full and part-time staff. Although there are are no firm offers for the property, there is the option to buy or lease it and he hopes someone will continue to run it as a pub, keeping on the current staff, and that new blood may revive it.

Also hoping that the Wolfe will reopen is manager Julia Templeton, who has been working alongside Mr. Bateman since she was 18. Having been manager for the past five years, she hopes to return to work at the pub but for the minute she is concentrating on her work as a sports therapist, including for Carlisle United players.

Mr. Bateman will pull his last pint at the Wolfe next Saturday.