Ok so we are nearly 2 years old and I must have been asked this question a thousand times or more, seriously! But that’s ok, I still enjoy explaining it and debating it and am not about to start telling people to read this blog for an explanation, that would be rude. Sometimes though I’m not so sure people get it so thought it about time I put it down in black and white as clear as I can. But I’ll also explain about our ethos and values and what happened at the beginning of the project so please excuse the long blog!
When we (Chaz Hobden my co-director and I) first decided to launch this venture, even before we found the lovely building that became The Vaults the closing time was decided as 9pm, ok well it’s actually 9.30pm but last orders is at 9. For both of us we wanted to trade on quality, not quantity, not to promote alcohol but to promote flavour and experience as that’s where our passion and background lies. Neither of us are publicans nor want to be any more than we want to follow a script of how to run a pub!
When we applied for the licence for the premises we put in for the normal licensing hours of 11 – 11 Monday to Saturday and 12 – 11 on Sunday so that if we wanted to we could open later on a special occasion or whenever we saw fit to roll past 9pm. As with many things in life, if you ask for a bit more than what you need, you might get knocked back to what you actually want. In this case we did exactly that. The licensing team in Devizes suggested that due to attached residential neighbours (one of which who has his kitchen window actually in our bar if you look at the wooden wall) that our application would be looked on more favourable if we reduced the hours to 9pm. No problem to us so that’s what we did. I’ll just add that all the people I dealt with in licensing, environmental health, police and fire were the most supportive and helpful people, they listened to me, I listened to them and between us we got to where everyone was happy!
There was of course the well publicised petition launched against the license and that was fine too. There is a process and procedure in place and any person whether residing locally or not has every right to object for whatever reason they see fit. I addressed those objections at the subsequent hearing, put my case across calmly and the council voted in favour of the license. I was happy about this obviously but not smug, from that point on I felt a duty to prove to the objectors and the council that it was a justified and correct decision. Soon after we launched we had a complaint made to environmental health from one of our neighbours as clearly the sound transmission between the party walls was not comfortable for them. We tried a few measures to dampen the noise and echo but they didn’t work so we built a long cavity wall with soundproof insulation and covered it with reclaimed roof battens which did the trick. A great many of the people that signed that petition are now regular customers and we couldn’t be more delighted!
Since that date I’m happy to say we’ve not had a single complaint nor a call from the authorities and on the times that we do apply for a one off late license, they are granted without any communication.
So, back to the whole closing time debate. We are independent, we have no ties to any company nor their products and not even our own 2 brewing companies although for obvious reasons our products feature fairly regularly on the bar. We don’t have to ‘conform’ to what pubs normally do and in fact we don’t have to do anything at all that pubs normally do. There are lots of different bars and pubs in Devizes, some of them offering something different to everyone else, some of them not so much and to an extent they all have their place and service a need. Those that don’t service a need close down, it’s as simple as that. People often think I detest Wetherspoons which couldn’t be further from the truth. Whilst it might not be a place I personally choose to frequent, it’s clearly very popular, its offerings service a need and therefore it is successful and an important business to have in a town this size. But I’ve digressed again.
Our little pub was designed to be the kind of place I would be thrilled to find if I stumbled across it and if it happened to be near where I lived, it’s where I would choose to go. I’ve been in this trade in a few forms for most of my working life, I’ve lived abroad and I’ve experienced hospitality at all levels across the world and almost unbeknownst to me was making mental notes of what I liked and what I didn’t. So I designed the pub and chose the products we’d sell and the kind of service we offered very carefully and stuck firmly to my guns on it absolutely refusing to listen to anyone that tried to steer me a different direction and still do that on a regular basis. At no time did the need to open late come into those plans. People clearly love what we do and the choices we make for them and I’ll never stop being grateful that they do. They also know we close early so generally if they are out for the evening then they’ll visit us early on at a point in their evening they can enjoy the flavours of our products in a comfortable friendly atmosphere served by staff that love what they’re doing and as importantly, know what they’re doing. At 9pm we call last orders, people drink up by 9.30 and leave quietly without any hassle. Some go on to other pubs, many go home completely contented and our staff do either of those things too. I am absolutely 100% certain that if we extended our opening hours to the ‘usual’ 11pm or midnight that the dynamics of the atmosphere would change, takings would nosedive, running costs would go up and our staff would be subject to putting up with drunkenness and bad behaviour from those that want to get wrecked without a care in the world for what they’re drinking or the environment they’ve walked in to. There’s also the consideration that our neighbours might be subject to unreasonable disturbance.
That’s not what we’re about, never has been and never will be and there are plenty of outlets to cater for those needs. Don’t get me wrong here, I love getting pissed and rather enjoy seeing some of our customers doing the same but just like going on holiday, I love the destination but I also want to enjoy the journey to it and I don’t recall a time in my life that getting drunk has made me either violent or abusive, just perhaps silly and maybe a tad annoying 🙂
We love being part of the Devizes vibe and it’s very rewarding for us that we have so many happy customers that share the same passion that we do, please don’t stop!
So there you have it, though I understand some of you lovely people being frustrated when having a nice time in our little pub when we call time, we won’t be changing the hours any time soon.
As the old saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”