FEATURE: Changing times in the Belper pub scene - cause for celebrations or concern?

Wetherspoons.
Wetherspoons.

Last week saw contrasting fortunes in the pub fraternity of Belper.

On one hand, JD Wetherspoon moved a step closer to arriving in the town after plans were rubber-stamped by the council for it to move into the old Bugsy’s Bar and Diner.

The site of the new Weatherspoons pub on Strutt Street, Belper.

The site of the new Weatherspoons pub on Strutt Street, Belper.

In the same week, the town lost one of its most popular watering holes when the Bull’s Head, on Belper Lane End, was vacated, with its landlord citing spiralling rent charges.

In the aftermath, local pub bosses, residents and pub-goers have had their say on the state of pubs in the Belper area.

Tim Turner, landlord at the Greyhound on Whitemoor Lane, said a new Wetherspoon would keep local boozers on their toes.

He said: “In this industry you’ve got to be ever-changing.

Tim Turner, landlord of the Greyhound.

Tim Turner, landlord of the Greyhound.

“To be honest places like Wetherspoon don’t focus on locally-sourced food like we do.

“We both offer food that represents value for money, but ours is better.

“As for the Bull’s Head, there is always the possibility someone else will take it over.

“The last landlord didn’t want to pay the rent costs but someone else may well do.”

Chris Rogers, Chairman of the Amber Valley branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said a new Wetherspoon was bound to impact on the town’s drinking scene, but that it was too early to say to what extent.

“CAMRA supports and promotes both Real Ale and Real Cider,” he commented. “Wetherspoon outlets are committed to both of these drinks and to this extent we welcome them. Some Wetherspoon outlets stock almost exclusively national brands but we will be encouraging them to support local breweries.

“CAMRA are a consumer organisation and as such welcome consumer choice, both in what customers drink and where they drink it. The atmosphere in a Wetherspoon pub is not to everyone’s taste and some will prefer a more traditional pub, of which Belper has its fair share.

“While some pubs may be concerned that it will have an adverse effect on their business, others feel their trade may benefit due to increased footfall in the town. Overall we anticipate the arrival of Wetherspoon will affect the drinking scene in the town but to what extent remains to be seen.”

Public opinion regarding Wetherspoon arriving in Belper has been split ever since the news was revealed earlier this year.

The plans to transform the site on Strutt Street into a £1 million complex, could create 45 jobs.

However, many people have raised concerns over parking, noise and the impact on existing pubs in the surrounding area.

Regarding any potential dates on when work on the new Wetherspoon would start, spokesperson Eddie Gershon has confirmed that negotiations are still at an early stage.

He said: “Wetherspoon has only exchanged contracts on the site in Belper.

“It has not been completed yet, and so there are no on-site or opening dates at this stage.”

Plenty of readers also got in touch with the Belper News regarding the pub scene.

Douglas Saltire said he believed the closure of the Bull’s Head was another sign of tough times for the local ale scene.

He said: “Nobody seems to know what’s happening to the Nelson or the Hop Inn, and the White Swan is To Let.

“I hope that a Wetherspoon does well and makes some others up their game.

“It’s pretty tough out there for pubs at the moment.”