Thursday, 30 August 2012

Last Halt, all change

Most pub closures go ahead without any protest or resistance. Happily, regulars at the Halt Bar in Woodlands have got together to oppose plans by the owners Punch Taverns to turn their pub into a  “mid-market venue with a strong food offering.”

The Halt is something that has become a rarity; a genuine local close to the city centre. Woodlands is densely populated with the kind of people who still go to pubs, and not a few bands have been formed here.

I drank in here years ago as a student when it was the hub (or one of the hubs) of that scene. I hadn’t been back recently because their regular beers are Deuchars and Hobgoblin (although a friend swears that I was there with him a couple of years ago and that I said we should go there more often. I have no recollection of this event at all).

When I heard of the potential threat I made a point of dropping in for a pint, to take some pictures and soak in the atmosphere while I still could. I found a really nice pub, not too quiet, not too busy, a mixed clientele of scenesters, middle-aged couples and old jakeys. The soundtrack was some indie stuff – vinyl, not too loud, and much preferable to the awful dad-rock that the failed Bruadar used to play. In this ambience, even the Hobgoblin was enjoyable; a rather one-dimensional beer with a strong treacle character.

Concern spread after images appeared on the internet of a proposed refurbishment which would, judging by the blurry floor plans, do away with the Edwardian horseshoe bar and replace the area with seating.

When I saw the mock-ups I immediately thought they had clearly been created by someone in Essex with little or no knowledge of Glasgow pubs; that is generally the way things work nowadays after all. The frontage with hanging baskets is a dead giveaway. We don’t do that up here, nice though they are. More disturbing is the lowering of the windows. At the moment the Halt has traditional high windows originally designed to stop children seeing the depraved goings-on inside the pub. Despite this there is plenty of natural light in the pub and it’s a lovely place to have a cheeky pint on a sunny afternoon, if, as Michael Jackson suggested, your lifestyle is leisurely or eclectic enough to allow it.

A “Save the Halt” group has been set up on Facebook and is trying to raise awareness. Campaigners have met with Punch and the initial talks have been positive. But the future of the pub is still in the balance.

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