Categories
Food News

Was Eat Out To Help Out a Good Thing?

So, it is a few weeks now since the Eat Out to Help Out (EOTHO) scheme officially ended, which has been time to reflect on it and how it has affected us. As a non-food outlet (discounting our amazing pop-up from Yak The Himalayan Kitchen, which doesn’t really directly benefit us in cash terms) we were not expecting to gain any net benefit from it. In fact, the suspicion was it may draw customers away in that already difficult early week period as they spent what they had available in restaurants.

In actuality, we were pleased to find that EOTHO diners were actually inclined to make an evening of it and have pre-drinks and post-drinks with us (leading to some amusing sales graphs and some thumb twiddling at “dinner-time”). Couple this assisted sales boost with the fact that we are traditionally quiet in August (we don’t benefit from nice weather filling pub gardens – it draws people away from our nice and cosy but rather warm space) and our overall trading performance was very heartening. You would therefore be forgiven for assuming I would welcome any extension of the scheme. However, the prospect of that happening, as some people started campaigning for, was not necessarily something I was keen on, in a large part due to the longer term impact on the industry I, and the rest of the team, are proud to be a part of.

Firstly, there are plenty of positive things to see in the impact of the EOTHO scheme. According to data from Barclaycard, around 18% of diners who used the Eat Out To Help Out initiative will return to restaurants they would not have otherwise visited without the incentive with almost one in five (19%) planning to continue dining out more often to support the industry. This research from Barclaycard Payments showed spending in UK restaurants and fast food outlets was up 34.2% on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August, compared with the same days in July and that the number of transactions grew by 33.7% with average spend data showing customers ordered more food and non-alcoholic drinks than they would usually.

Eat Out To Help Out was a fantastic lifeline for the hospitality sector, but it could not have continued forever. My concern on the long term impact if it had continued, based around the observation that the scheme put a lot of pressure on restaurants operationally just to make it happen, is that it could easily put independent restaurants at risk. It has also put the pressure on businesses to continue the scheme at their own expense, something indies simply cannot do. Running a restaurant is really expensive. You have to pay rent, business rates, staff and for food. These costs have to therefore be covered by the pricing on the menu. It’s all well and good for the big brands but for small restaurant businesses, covering the costs of a 50% discount isn’t viable.

My main issue with extending the scheme however, is that diners are forgetting the real value of food. On pretty much any high street in the UK, you can eat a burger for 99p or fried chicken and chips for a fiver. But the truth is that food simply cannot be a cheap commodity, it is important we wean the general public away from chasing the discounts. Something has to give. Whether it’s the quality of the cow’s life, the farmer who reared it, or the soil used to grow the crops to feed the cow. We should expect to pay a fair price for the food on our plate. I appreciate we’re in the middle of some very tough times, and many people are struggling financially but entering into a culture of discounted meals isn’t going to solve this. People must understand the real value of food (and drink) rather than seeing it as a cheap commodity and operators that it boils down to the ‘value’ of their offering. It is the food, drink, service, atmosphere and a safe environment that will see those prosper the most through these hard times.

Categories
News

The Value of a Review

 

One of those scathing publican responses to a bad customer review on social media was doing the rounds this weekend and kicked off a bit of a discussion amongst some of us about how far you can go with your reply to a reviewer, what a business should put up with and how right are customers anyway. A lot of these posts have been shared since Trip-Advisor became a thing, situations where some irate and curiously often near-illiterate customer of a restaurant / pub etc has an experience that doesn’t match up to their own particular expectations, so they wait till they get home, then put finger to keyboard in a pithy attempt to destroy somebody’s business. Only to get owned by the person responding for the business who uses strange things like “facts” and “common sense” to pull apart to complaint. We have had a few in our local area over the years that should have been award winning (shout out to Phil at Los Gatos who used to bring philosophy, psychology, and high-brow literature references into his fabulous ripostes).

But this one really struck a chord because it was the first post lockdown one I had read so directly referenced distancing regulations and the current tough trading situation. You can read the review and the response here on the pubs Facebook page and revel in the responders excellent turn of phrase (I did love the use of “entitled toddlers”) and usage of basic mathematics to make a point. Essentially, a bunch of selfish, ignorant idiots had come to the pub for a 50th birthday party, basically treated the place like it was their own home, drank irresponsibly, got argumentative and abusive with staff, and, most pertinently at the moment, ignored simple Covid restrictions, restrictions put in place to protect not just themselves but the other customers of the establishment, and especially the staff! Like I said, selfish and ignorant. They blast the establishment for not letting them initially move tables, for trying to control their boorish behaviour, and having the temerity to ask them to leave when one of the party vomits all over the floor inside. Then, in there “review” perfectly illustrated their own overblown sense of self importance by vastly over-estimating the value of their business to the pub that night (if accidental, a perfect illustration of how hard it is to make a profit in the trade – the customer thinks they have spent £700 but actually it is nearer £250).

Now, in my mind, if a customer as blatantly stupid as this one was to complain in this way I would be inclined to respond in as blunt a manner as the landlord in this example (I have done it before, much to the annoyance of Linda, when, during our first year of trading a chap questioned our prices and stated we wouldn’t last a year. His reasoning was weak and easily challenged, and so I kept his business card and invited him back for a drink on the house for our first anniversary. He did not respond and three years further down the line, we are still here). Of course, if a provided service is substandard a customer has the right to take issue. If, however, the biggest issue is the customers own misguided perception of what they “deserve” then I say go both barrels in response.

The validity of online reviews via sites like Trip Advisor, Google, and Facebook, is something that has often been debated. Whilst it is a good thing for customers to be able to feedback, it is all too easy for somebody to post unbalanced views or purposefully defame a business. I am always an advocate of complaining at the time if you have any issue in a restaurant or pub. This lets the business attempt to rectify it for you. What is the point in getting frothy at the mouth 24 days later when you are at home? If all you need to do is to vent, do not do it on a public forum. Rant at your family or friends instead, or just write it down, save it and then read it back when you feel better and realise you have been a childish idiot and delete it sheepishly. Then, no harm done to anyone other than your fragile ego.

It is hard enough in the hospitality trade at the best of times, without having to deal with the fall out from customers who are so self-centred that they have no concept of life beyond the end of their own nose and are ignorant of the fact they share that hospitality space with other people who are also paying hard earned money to enjoy themselves and have as equal a right to do so in peace without suffering the actions of idiots. Staff also should be able to earn a living without having to deal with the attitude and abuse of these kind of people, let alone clearing up their mess, whether that is human biological waste or just food crushed into the soft furnishings.

Luckily here at The Tuppenny, we do not tend to get that behaviour all that often. We can count the number of ejections each year without taking off our socks, and those that do happen are always pretty tame events (I tried to explain why we have such a nice customer base in a previous blog you can read here). But we have had one or two negative reviews over the years, each of which does not sit well at the time, but in reflection all are petty or pointless. We have had “stars” knocked off because someone did not like the background music. They adored the rest of their experience of course, but our choice of music was not to their taste. Or there was the person who took a strong dislike to the colour we had painted the walls. One early review slated us for our treatment of him as he felt singled out and persecuted because we had made him leave but ignored the fact he had harassed and verbally abused another customer and then the staff who dealt with him. In a much better example of irony than Alanis Morrissette ever thought of, he was later shared round social media in a viral video which showed him verbally abusing people on the London Underground based on their gender and race. He has never been back, funnily.

But these negative reviews can have serious implications for a business, and they can play on the mind even when you know they should not. There are industry stories of staff feeling so singled out that they quit jobs or suffer mental health issues and worse, just based on unfounded customer reviews and there is not much that can be done to stop them, short of taking down the websites that host them (who generally have a pretty poor track record of policing fake and malicious reviews) and we certainly are all for free speech.

There are things we can do to minimise the impacts of these nasty reviews though, and they are especially pertinent in the current trading climate. If we all got in the habit of sharing our positive experiences at hospitality venues, we can bury the more malicious or selfish reviews and help all the great independent places to survive and thrive. Yes, not just us at the Tuppenny, but all those wonderful local venues out there who are struggling to get by but pulled out all the stops over lockdown to keep you guys going. So, shout from the rooftops or Google, Facebook, or Trip Advisor about how great your local spots are and do them a massive favour. They need it.

 

 

Categories
News

How hard is it to follow a simple rule?

 

We are a long way into this lockdown thing now. It has been nigh on six months in fact. You would have thought we would be used to it and in control. But apparently not. Infection rates are climbing, there are localised breakouts, and a trip round town, day or night, illustrates how much people either don’t care or don’t understand. We should all appreciate what is going on by now, the planet is gripped in a pandemic, people are dying, and to help we stay apart as best we can, wash our hands and the surfaces we touch and wear masks over our mouth and nose to minimise airborne transfer. Simple.

Yet shops are filled with moronic idiots with no mask on, or they are wearing one round their chin or with their nose poking out. Yes, I get it, it gets hot and uncomfortable, trust me I know all about it, I am fat and hairy, but I manage, I realise that hospital or death is probably worse than 20 mins of discomfort. People are socialising in inappropriate groups and not understanding how far two metres actually is and worst of all, as far as I am concerned, there are businesses that seem to be flouting industry specific rules, whether through ignorance or, more likely, greed. By this, I specifically mean other bars and pubs, places that are obviously fuller than they should be, with people stood around instead of sitting, going to the bar, gathering in groups way bigger than six, blatantly not from the same social bubbles or households etc. Pubs that are having mass brawls and getting closed for the night by the police but opening the following day like nothing has happened.

This angers and confuses me. The information is easily available and is reported in the media frequently, so ignorance is not likely, which means it is greed that is making these places behave this way. They are coining it in as if nothing is going on whilst the majority of us in the trade toe the line and consequently watch our bank balances sliding towards red as our turnover crashes and our costs escalate (I have said it before, table service costs more to run yet you serve less people). In what way is this fair, and why the hell is nothing being done about it? Why are these operators still allowed to open?

One is a major company of course; whose arse of an owner donates millions to the Tory Party. His pubs could probably host evenings of human sacrifice to the devil and still be allowed to trade. But some of the others do not sit under this corporate safety umbrella, they are independent businesses run by what I can only guess are greedy individuals with no concern for the communities that they operate within. Yes, I understand that these places lack “Tuppennyness” so tend to act as magnets for morons and idiots, but they still have a responsibility to manage their customers. So, if you know people who go to these places, gently nudge them, and make them see the error of their ways. Let’s get people to support the businesses that are supporting our community by following guidelines and regulations, especially those local businesses that worked to keep things going through lockdown.

We all know the misbehaving businesses I am talking about, I don’t need to spell it out, and we should all be getting as angry about them as we are about the absolute tool in the supermarket coughing their way round with no mask, or the high ranking government advisor who sets policy to say one thing as he does the opposite. What we should not be doing is tarring an entire industry with their filthy brush. Most of us are doing it right, and suffering because we are. Blame needs to be apportioned where it is due, not broadly, and steps taken to keep us all safe. Councils and police need the power to be able to shut down operators who are flouting Covid guidelines. The last thing we all need is another complete lockdown because of greedy business owners and morons who cannot follow a simple guideline.

Categories
Live Music News

Is Live Music Back?

 

The more alert of you will have noticed we recently snuck up a new event. An event that features some live music. Those of you with long memories will realise that this is auspicious as it will be our first live music since mid-March. However, do not get too excited in thinking this marks the long-awaited return of our live music programme, because it does not. This is just us scratching the itch, seeing how it works under current situations and checking to see what the demand is like.

I will attempt to explain. There is nothing more we would like than to launch back into a full line up. I had the year booked up right through to our summer break in August when Covid-19 shut things down in March. I also had a smattering of post August events scheduled too; the year was about 75% booked from about February. Of course, all the gigs from late March to the Shuffle (our normal break point) in July have had to be cancelled under government orders, and rightly so. I got brave in June and started filling in September onwards, because surely things will be better by then. Well, no, not so far. But, as of last weekend, indoor musical events were allowed again, albeit under the current distancing regulations. Hurrah you say! The music is back you say! But it is not.

Some venues are manfully attempting to get going again, and I applaud them. But these are venues that have no real choice. Places like Level III exist only for live music. They only open for gigs. Without them, they cease to have any relevance. That is not the case with us of course, we are first and foremost a bar. We can open without gigs, these are just a nice little side-line (an important one for us personally, but less so from a business perspective). So, we have not been claiming support for music venues to ensure the maximum possible could go to the places that really need it (like Level III here in Swindon, or The Exchange or Louisiana in Bristol or Moles in Bath etc), places that don’t have trade without gigs. I have written in the past about the Music Venue Trust (check that out here: https://thetuppenny.com/2020/05/11/the-tuppenny-lock-out-diary-02/) who have been doing incredible work raising the issue and working with government to solve it; and they are getting there. They have been instrumental in securing the recent funding packages, they have helped save venues like the Deaf Institute and Gorilla in Manchester from closing and so much more. Go and check them out and see what you can do to help.

But back to little old us. As I said, we have been observers in all this, we have the bar and some shop trade keeping us going, so have always felt others were more deserving (even when some musicians hosted an online gig with us as the official bar, so we received donations from the audience in lieu of them buying a pint, we gave all that money to the musicians playing). Which brings me to the point of this blog. We will not be leaping back in to doing gigs until some of the restrictions are lifted. Quite simply, this is because it is not financially viable for us to do it. Why, may you ask, how on earth can attracting extra people to the bar not be worth it? Well, in normal times you would be right in assuming this, it is worth it, very much worth it. However, with the reduced capacity, which reduces even more with the stage being set up, we simply cannot take enough money to pay the musicians.

Yes, you read that right; “pay the musicians”. Because that is what we do. For every show we have put on, we pay them a fee. It is their job. They are working. So, they should be fairly paid for this. We have a real issue with venues and events that do not offer payment to musicians, whether it is from the bar take or by charging for tickets. If you cannot afford the music, do not have it. It is not fair you are profiting from other people’s efforts. Therefore, it is for this reason that we are not going to be rushing in to putting gigs on. We would probably lose money if we did – unless the current gig capacity of about 30 people all decided to spend about £40 each over the bar, which is not all that realistic (go on – prove me wrong; come to the Jim Blair gig that is part of our Summer Blow-Out and hammer your debit card – I dare you, nay, I double dare you to! Make me look like a fool), then we do not cover everything we need to, and right now every penny counts. It is not even like we are making enough through the week to cover gig related losses, as I have mentioned in other blogs, as our capacity has gone down, we have had to increase staff costs.

So, I am left monitoring the booked gigs, gradually cancelling them as this all drags on. Will we be hosting live music again this year? I hope so, there is some brilliant stuff booked in towards Christmas, but I cannot see it. Live music will be back at some point. It is in our DNA. It just might not be for a little while. Which sucks.

Categories
News

Don’t Forget – We still have the Tuppenny Shop & DeliverBrew

I just wanted to pen a quick reminder that even though full lockdown is (for the moment) over you can have your slice of the Tuppenny at home still as the shop is very much an ongoing thing, and something we are slowly developing.

Since we re-opened the bar we took the decision to treat the shop as a bit of a seperate entity instead of an extension of the bar. This means that we have dropped the prices in line with a pure retail offer to reflect the differences between the two sides of the business. This is the main, but not sole change with the shop. We still deliver, but only on a Friday now, in time for the weekend. You can also now do a click and collect type service – order your drinks online anytime, then collect from the bar during opening hours, any day! However, we have had to stop doing the pours of the guest beers as they just change too frequently to keep the shop updated. If you do want one of these you can still buy as a takeway in the bar. We do still do the 9 pint mini-kegs of our house beers and cider though and you can add a Tuppenny T Shirt or Tote Bag to your order too!

Demand has understandably dropped since re-opening, but please do think of us when you next want beers for home – we still have our BBQ friendly fridge packs of Renegade Lager and Detour Pale Ale. You will be supporting both a great local bar / shop and small independent brewers. Thats got to feel good, surely?

So, same great shop and service, but much better pricing! Winner winner beer for dinner!

Go find the shop at http://the-tuppenny.myshopify.com and fill your boots!

P.S. don’t tell the others I told you this, but if you are in the bar and want a take home, it is cheaper to do it as a click and collect (so you can order more, can’t you….!)

 

 

Categories
News

Defining a Bar; The Story of Tuppennyness

During the lockdown we had the time to be a bit more communicative with you all and had hoped for the whole team to blog regularly about Tupp related topics close to their hearts. As is typical for us, the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition; blog writing is something you have to want to do, and if you are not feeling it, it isn’t really going to happen, and it did not for most of us. Which means I get to pick up on a topic that one of the others had initially “baggsied” to write about. They snoozed, they lost…

One of the things that has been commented by us throughout the pandemic and through this painful process of reopening with mitigations, is how much value we place on the atmosphere of The Tuppenny. We know what we mean when we talk about this, the vibe of the place, something that has started to be known as “Tuppennyness” (seriously – other people have started using it too, it’s not just us!) but do you? So, I am going to try and explain it.

This concept of “Tuppennyness” goes back to our ground zero moments, when the idea of the bar was first floated amongst us (I ought to write a post on the genesis of the business at some point, just for posterity). We wanted a place that, as well as focusing on “craft” drinks and classic cocktails, was a reflection of where we all were in life; much more interested in socialising over high quality drinks with friends than raising hell and partying like it was the last night on earth. Somewhere you could have conversations, play games, enjoy the quality end of the drinks market, and meet new people without the simmering threat of a fight for looking wrongly at someone. We wanted to create a space that was welcoming and open to all, whatever your age, race, gender, sexual orientation or political persuasion, where people would not feel threatened or intimidated, where you could be yourself without fear of humiliation or judgement and can relax with friends old and new. When we say relax, we properly mean it. The Tuppenny is designed to be somewhere you can draw breath, exhale all your worries, and unwind.

Achieving much of this is reasonably straightforward, starting with the physical aspects of the bar. Our interior is painted that dark blue and has low lighting to be cosy, the music tends to be background and fairly chilled and we made things as comfortable as possible within our limited means and space (yes, we would love loads more sofas and big comfy chairs; we just can’t fit them in!). There are some quirky little design ideas, a bit of upcycling (for some reason, the gents are the most photographed part of the building) and things have a place. We kind of wanted a home from home vibe, and we try and look after it all as best as possible to encourage our guests to do the same. If we take pride, you take pride (I reckon we touch up the paintwork more often than any other business around – Linda has a real hatred of scuff marks).  We ourselves always strive to be as welcoming and friendly as possible, nothing is too much trouble, and encourage our staff to be the same. We have always had a good range of games to keep you entertained, have shelves of booze related books and magazines and are happy for you to linger.

Then of course, perhaps the biggest factor in making us who we are is what is available at the bar. It has always been a very conscious decision to only offer products from independent producers – craft breweries, artisanal small batch distillers and the like. By not offering the usual big brand names we straight away became undesirable to the people who have no interest in what they are drinking; the people whose relationship with alcohol amounts to as long as they are familiar with it, and it gets you drunk, they are happy with it. We wanted to support small producers, people who were pushing the boundaries of their craft and producing the best drinks in the market. Not the big multinational companies whose big brands were everywhere and designed to appeal to the masses. Our drinks selection was always going to be designed for the curious, the quality seeker and the open minded. Those who thrived on change and trying new things, those who wanted the best.

It was also an easy decision for us to keep our “house” products of a high quality, to not mug off customers with cheap booze from the cash and carry. Our house draught pours have always been from a local brewer (West Berkshire Brewery), including the lager. We sourced a nitro-stout product from an independent brewer, Porterhouse, not Guinness (it’s better, and most prefer it). Out house vodka is most bars mid-to premium level product, the same with gin, rum, and whiskies. This even extends to cocktails, forever the misunderstood home of poor-quality spirits hidden by gallons of sugary mixers. Our cocktail menu is compact, limited to the classics and made the traditional way, heavy on the booze. Our drinks are the real deal, and priced accordingly.

Price is one of our main weapons in the battle against basic. It was never in our minds to be perceived as a cheap night out. We always strive to promote responsible drinking and frankly do not want the sort of people who are only hell bent on getting as twisted out of shape on booze as they can. So, there was never going to be a double up for a pound deal on spirits (if you want a double, you pay for 2 measures, as that is what you get). We would not have an all-encompassing happy hour with super-deals designed to shift as much booze as possible. Our only deal is Wine O’clock, for those straight-out-of-the-office get some headspace moments.

Our pricing is fair, and reflective of the quality of products we sell. Yes, you can get a pint in ‘Spoons for less than three quid, and if that is your measure of a good pub, then off you trot. If you are going to come to us for a drink do not be surprised if you find a beer on the bar that would be selling for the equivalent of £12 to £15 a pint. It is not us ripping you off, it is us finding the most exciting products out there. We do not, nor have ever, worked to anything inflated to above an accepted industry standard margin. In fact, we quite often work below this on some of the more expensive products. Besides, one of those beers will only be served in a smaller, one-third measure. They have ABV’s akin to wine and beers like this deserved to be sipped and savoured, appreciated and drunk slowly, not necked because your taxi is on its way. If beer pricing is a topic you are interested in, keep an eye out for my next blog, as writing this one has inspired me to give you all an understanding of the cost anatomy of a pint and to write about why certain chains are destroying the industry.

Finally, in the same vein of “let us not attract the wrong sorts” there is also our well-known lack of “shots” – the sort of drink so eye wateringly crap you can only handle in tiny quantities drunk quickly. This is always the cry at Christmas from the pub amateurs – “what? No shots?”. That is not fun in our eyes. Even our tequila is smooth enough to sip rather than slam.

Ultimately, what we have tried to create is a bar that attracts the sort of customers who appreciate all this and actively puts off the kind of folks who would not and would likely counteract the vibe. We love that buzz of actual conversation, people chatting about poetry and philosphy on one table, celebrity and soaps on another. We love the friendliness of all the people, the lack of fear and sense of togetherness and community that we have. We love the musicians and the game players, the contemplative readers and the gregarious beer bores. Yes, we would make a lot more money if we offered the same generic stuff as most other bars, with deals, shots and no imagination or standards. But we do not ever want to put profit before Tuppennyness!

We think we have achieved what we had hoped to do. Some of our most proud moments are when we hear how people have discovered new favourite drinks and got away from drinking bland generic rubbish, how women have been comfortable coming into our place alone, or how many new friendships have been forged across our bar and how the lost art of conversation has been rediscovered. These are the measures of our success and the mark of true Tuppennyness!

Categories
Food News

Momo Pop-Up is here!

*NEW FOOD LAUNCH!**

We know that many of you have been asking what we’re going do about our food offering since Old Town sadly said farewell to The Chop House. Well this is what! We’re chuffed to bits to be able to announce that we’re teaming up with our good friends and neighbours right across the street at Yak The Himalayan Kitchen to provide you with momos! These hand made traditional Nepalese steamed dumplings are filled with your choice of uniquely spiced meat or veggies, wrapped with love and care in soft, pillowy steamed dumplings that lock all the flavours into little, succulent packages of joy. They will be available from Monday – Saturday, between 6 and 9pm, freshly prepared in their kitchen and brought to you at your table in the Tuppenny!

The joy is multiple – you can enjoy the filling of your choice from a selection of Buffalo, Chicken, Lamb, Pork or Vegetable, tradionally spiced and wrapped in a light dumpling, steamed and served with a delicious spicy, garlicky tomato dipping sauce. Or you may prefer them slathered in a tangy homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce spiced to your tolerance level.

Momo Poster V2 Final

Categories
News

Guess Who’s Back?!

Welcome back to The Tuppenny! Same bar, same vibes, awesome drinks but now with added Covid-19 mitigations in place.

We re-opened at 4pm on 4th July after 15 long weeks closed during which we count ourselves very fortunate to have not lost any of our loved ones. We have also learnt an awful lot more about ourselves, our business and you, our wonderful customers – so it hasn’t all be bad at all. But, we have missed being in our bar and seeing you lot in it – we started this business as a social endeavour as much as anything, and moulded the place in our own images, so operating as a online business without the social interaction has been very hard to bear, as is opening up with all of these necessary mitigations. We hope that by making all these changes and encouraging everyone to toe the line with us we can get back to normal as soon as possible, bring the live music, comedy and poetry back we have tentatively booked, and properly fill the place with joy, laughter and humanity.

In the meantime, please do come in and see us as we tread water as a table service only venue with limited numbers and chilled tunes. We will temporarily be card payment only too. It’s still be though, we have a full selection of beer, cider, wine and our fab cocktails plus a big selection of “driver drinks” – all the stuff you expect from us. You can check out the beer selection HERE.

Sadly, our board games have had to be mothballed for the time being to limited infection points. But, please do feel free to bring your own with you, you are more than welcome.

Finally, we know we dont need to say but, be safe, be sensible and bear in mind our stringent no dickhead* policy is still in force and will be vigorously applied. The Tuppenny is a home from home for everybody else regardless of age, gender, race and beliefs.

And if you cannot be with us at the time for whatever reason, you can still get a slice of the Tupp at home via our online delivery or collection service at our online SHOP.

So come and see us whether you are a serious hop-head, gin fiend or simply like to relax and socialise in a cool place with friends old and new.

*specifically included under the no dickeads policy are Dominic Cummings and in particular Tim Martin, who will both be ejected with extreme prejudice.

 

Categories
New Brews News The Playlist

Our “New Low”…

The Tuppenny and the NoLo movement

Despite us having partly built our business around a carefully curated selection of artisan beers, ciders, wines, and spirits, it is not always all about alcohol with the drinks at The Tuppenny. We like to be as inclusive as possible, not everybody likes alcohol and for every group of drinkers there is generally one person driving. We also realise that for many folks in our society alcohol is a problem, whether that is personally or because of the actions of others who cannot deal with it sensibly, and we have always been a bar that encourages responsible drinking and discourages excess and idiocy. In fact, we believe we have a far lower tolerance threshold for anti-social behaviour than almost anywhere else.

Since opening we have taken pride in offering a far more interesting selection of soft drinks than just your usual cola’s, lemon and orangeade’s and fruit juices, including in our fridge old classics like dandelion & burdock, ginger beer, cream soda and root beer. We also worked hard to ensure we always offered the best non-alcoholic beer we could find. In recent times however, this has all stepped up a gear. More and more people are watching what they drink, a recent report from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) revealed that one in three young adults have cut down on their alcohol consumption with a record 23% claiming to now be teetotal, meaning the no and low alcohol drink sector is currently the fastest growing part of the drinks industry and consequently the choice of interesting and flavoursome drinks on the market is increasing alongside this.

So we have kept stepping up our game, whilst always trying to maintain that interesting point of difference that sets us apart from the other bars locally as well as the supermarkets. In responding to this fundamental change of drinking habits one of the products we have adopted is Kombucha. Created from a natural yeast and bacterial fermentation of a sweet tea, this drink originated in China around 200 years ago.

It is a light, sparkling, delicate flavoured drink with a flavour profile that is somewhere between a fruity champagne and a light scrumpy cider. The approach and process is similar to the production of a champagne or prosecco but the fermentation technique results in a product that, because it weighs in at less than 0.5% ABV, means it is classed as alcohol free (it contains less alcohol than a ripe banana!) In terms of flavour, it has a subtle acidity that is similar in level to the sharper white wines, but with fruit flavours that come through. One of the two varieties we stock, Royal Flush, has notes of rhubarb and gooseberry and citric fruits coming through for example.

Kombuchas have received criticism in the past for a high price tag compared to soft drinks, but the complex fermentation processes distinguish them from soft drinks, they are made with a level of craft as complex as any alcoholic drink which results in a layered taste experience like you would get with beer and wine. It is no accident that the brand we stock, Real Kombucha, is listed at over 60 Michelin starred restaurants, including the 2-star L’Enclume where it is served as an aperitif.

Speaking of craft, we have been happy to recently extend out alcohol-free craft beer range to include Solo Pale Ale from our friends at West Berkshire Brewery. This is a delicious less than 0.5% ABV pale ale with a tropical hop aroma with grassy pine notes and a crisp bitterness, that sat nicely alongside the dry-hopped lager we already had and has gone down very well so far with our customers. The product has had such a positive impact for the brewery, that they have now launched a peach version of the pale, and a pilsner lager too, both of which have made an equally big statement on the alcohol-free trade (yep, there are retailers out there who specialise in low and no drinks). We have had both and they are up there with the best on the market –  the pilsner has a snappy bitterness and fresh, floral aroma whilst the peach pale is a light and crisp delight with bright citrus aroma and a refreshing peach taste. We will be stocking the entire Solo family eventually: the pilsner has already made its way on to the shop and the peach will be following as soon as possible but has been so popular has sold out at the brewery already! We think you would be hard pressed to find three better and more interesting low-alcohol beers anywhere.

The aim for us is to continue exploring this sector of our market and searching out for you the best examples of no and low drinks, much as we do with the rest of our offering. So, keep an eye out for anything new going on, and as always, rest assured that we have stringently ensured it is to Tuppenny quality, so give it a go! We have your backs…!

Categories
Live Music News

The Tuppenny Lock-Out Diary #02

The Music Venue Trust, Live Music & Us!

Hey all, Ed again! When we set up The Tuppenny, in many people’s eyes we probably had the worlds worst business plan and went about everything arse-about-face. But, for us, the idea was to create a place that we wanted to be. It was that simple. We were fed up with the proliferation of carbon copy plastic bars serving the same obvious drinks to people that we quite frankly did not want to hang around with. Big companies selling even bigger companies’ products to people who could not care what they were drinking. People who went along with the crowd and had no independent thought. Your basic sheep, essentially. We wanted to serve drinks from independent producers who cared more about quality than cost, drinks that were properly handled and served by people who cared what they were selling you and knew their stuff. We really did not want to deal with all the problems and hassle that comes from running a mainstream bar and all the dickheads and menacing atmosphere that cheap booze brings.

Alongside this, there was always going to be music. With backgrounds like ours, that was a given. Linda had spent over 9 years managing the bar at music venues The Victoria and 12 Bar and I had been putting gigs on and running festivals for years as well as writing about and releasing music. Then, there is Jamie, who has had a life immersed in music, playing in local bands, touring the country in those bands, sound engineering, touring even further afield as a professional session player for bigger musicians and of course, a long stint at Holmes Music equipping the areas musicians and repairing their instruments. It is fair to say we couldn’t not have some form of live music in our new place.

What kind of music that was got partly determined by the space we had. The Tuppenny is not big, is pretty much one room, with low ceilings and residential flats directly above. Anything that was too loud would not have worked – we would have had a litany of noise complaints, deaf customers and staff and besides, a five-piece band with full drums takes up a fair amount of space, leaving little room for customers. So, smaller acoustic based set ups it was then. We all liked a wide variety of music so this was no issue and I had plenty of contacts on the circuit built up over the years. We picked Thursdays initially as a music night, as Fridays and Saturdays we had no need to attract custom, it was already coming and we consequently didn’t have the space available for music. We went with just 2 sessions a month, both to keep costs down as we found our way and built an audience, and so as to ensure we kept the quality levels high and people interested. Of course, in keeping with our desire to be a little different and more artisan, we only book artists who perform their own material, not covers acts. Again, the sort of music we would go and see ourselves.

We have found ourselves part of a wider music circuit, attracting artists not just from the local talent pool, but artists who tour the country, people making a living from playing their own songs. We eventually got brave and have had bands with drummers (small set ups, admittedly) and widened our musical scope as best we can within our physical limitations – some of our favourite shows have been when we have encouraged bands to strip back their sound, reinterpret what they do and tailor it to suit our space and our audience. We have hosted folk, americana, blues, soul, indie, dream-pop, roots, afrobeat, drone, punk, electronica, rock, all in way that suited our vibe. We even extended music to include a monthly Sunday afternoon chilled session and host several sessions of local festival The Swindon Shuffle every July. There are not many places in town that you would find the kind of artists we host (hello to our friends at The Beehive!) and that is perfect for us.

Of course, since the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, all our lovingly curated live music events have been cancelled (many to be rearranged when possible). This is not ideal of course, but can’t be helped. As I noted in an earlier blog, we quickly converted ourselves to an online store with home delivery (and now click-and-collect), so we are not reliant on any income generated by the live events. However, the artists themselves are and so are a lot of our peers on the circuit. Which is why, because we see ourselves as having a wider responsibility within this live music community, we have been following but not getting involved with the current #saveourvenues campaign from the Music Venues Trust (MVT). Whilst we do not yet need this kind of support, others do, which is why I wanted to highlight it and bring it to your attention.

The MVT is a UK registered charity which acts to protect, secure and improve Grassroots Music Venues. These venues have played a crucial role in the development of British music over the last 60 years, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. In a nutshell – if bands like Muse, Arctic Monkey’s, Radiohead or even Ed Sheeran hadn’t cut their teeth and honed their craft at these venues, then they wouldn’t be where they are today, selling millions of records and tickets worldwide and bringing millions of pounds into the economy. These issues are not new however, the MVT was founded back in 2014, way before Covid -19 was a thing, because existing pressures on these venues such as noise abatement issues, building developments, and financial stresses on audiences have meant that many have already closed, or were at extreme risk of closure way before the current, government ordered, closedown. They have been sorting out legal representation for venues, providing experts in acoustics to help with cases and were instrumental in pushing through parliament the “Agent of Change” legislation that now requires any developer building in the vicinity of a music venue to bear responsibility for soundproofing their development or improving the venues existing soundproofing.

Since the closedown they have upped the ante somewhat as there are now over 500 venues at imminent risk of closure and organised the large scale #saveourvenues crowdfunder (which at time of writing was sitting at well over £1 million raised). Additionally, they are helping link artists with venues to put on and promote to a wider audience fundraising live streams (including some higher profile artists – big props to Frank Turner who has been instrumental in all this). It is hoped all of this will ensure these venues can survive the shutdown and last through until the live music machine grinds back into gear again, something that is looking less and less likely to happen this year.

I am sure many people wonder what all the fuss is about. So what if some grubby little music venues close down? However, just a small amount of forward thinking would reveal that were these venues to close, there would be no next generation of bands and artists coming through. No fresh new Coldplay (not the worst thing ever suggested), Foals or Royal Blood. Hell, even the Beatles and the Stones cut their teeth in small dingy venues back in the day. Just imagine a world without any of this music in it. Who would be headlining festivals? We would be stuck in a world full of anodyne, written-to-order pappy pop nonsense. The result would be no different to removing the foundations of a building. Soon enough the whole thing will collapse, even the exclusive penthouses on the top floor.

So, whilst you wait for the great re-opening of pubs, bars and venues, spend a little of your time looking at what the MVT are doing, and if you really care about live music, at any level, even if you only ever go to big corporate festivals and gigs, do something to help save the grassroots venues as they are the lifeblood of the industry and without them there would eventually be no Glastonbury, or O2 Arena shows. Chuck a few quid into the crowdfunder, or into the pot at one of the excellent online gigs that are going on at the moment. It all counts.

The Music Venue Trust are found here: http://musicvenuetrust.com/

More on #saveourvenues campaign is here: https://saveourvenues.co.uk/#/