After years of what seemed to be terminal decline, pubs in Chesterfield are coming back.
Many old ones that had been given up on by their local communities are coming back into use thanks to expensive refurbishments.
And new ones are opening as well, with so-called ‘micropubs’ which cater for beer connoisseurs seemingly springing up everywhere.
In the last few weeks, Chesterfield has seen The Rectory open on Church Way, The Grouse reopen on Chatsworth Road and the Cock and Magpie reopen in nearby Old Whittington.
In addition, work has begun on a major refurbishment of the Royal Oak at Old Tupton and a new ‘micropub’ is expected in Walton later this spring.
Dom Stevens, manager of Destination Chesterfield said: “Chesterfield has a growing food and drink economy and it’s wonderful to see investment in this area in the town.
Over the last five years it has been very difficult. It is doable but it takes a lot of hard work.Glyn Smith from the Cock and Magpie in Old Whittington
“There’s clearly demand which is reflected in both the investment being made in both brewery-owned and independent pubs, which is catering for all tastes.
“The many nominations we receive in the Best Pub category in the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards each year, are a great endorsement for the resurgence of this sector.”
Glyn Smith is director of Chesterfield-based Spire Inns which currently runs nine pubs in the Chesterfield and Sheffield area. He has recently acquired a new venue to his fleet, The Cock & Magpie in Old Whittington,
“I have know the pub for a long time - it used to be my local for ten years,” he said.
“It used to be the heart of the community but it had declined a lot.
“I went in and it was dirty, dark and dingy.”
Glyn said they spent a ‘significant’ amount of money on improving the decor and hiring some ‘superb’ chefs.
He says one of the reasons pubs have struggled in recent years is because the drinking culture in the UK has changed.
“It used to just be a social thing but people tend to do that at home these days with alcohol they buy at the supermarket.
“Over the last five years it has been very difficult.
“It is doable but it takes a lot of hard work.”
However, it is not just fancy ‘gastro-pubs’ that are returning to the area. Work began last week on a £160,000 refurbishment of the Royal Oak at Old Tupton by Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars.
Renamed The Tupton Tap, it is hoped new licensees Ashover Brewery will transform a ‘tired local’ into a community pub specialising in cask ales.
Kim Beresford, managing director of Ashover Brewery, which also operates four other pubs in the area, said: “I remember the Royal Oak in its glory days when it was a busy local.
“The area is crying out for a community pub where people can come together and over the years quite a few Old Tupton residents have suggested we take it on.
“We’re delighted to be doing so now. It’s an impressive building in a great location with excellent public transport to the door, all it needs is some TLC and investment.”
The smallest of the new pubs that will soon be arriving on the Chesterfield scene is undoubtedly Stephen Eyre’s as yet unnamed ‘micropub’ in Walton.
Micropubs have exploded in recent years with customers attracted to the company of other beer aficionados and relaxed atmosphere.
The new pub - which will be situated in a former takeaway unit on the Walton shops complex on Breckland Road - will become the fifth real ale pub in the town. The Real Ale Corner in Brampton was followed by the Chesterfield Alehouse on West Bars, the Beer Parlour in Whittington Moor and Brimming with Beer in Brimington.
The growth of these smaller establishments which focus on quality rather than quantity is another indication of changing tastes.
Patricia McGill has run the Real Ale Corner on Chatsworth Road with her husband Alan for the last three years. She said: “People don’t want the run of the mill big brewery stuff and are looking for something a bit different.
“And it’s not just about the what people drink - the atmosphere in here is really good as well.
“We don’t have music or a TV and when you get 20 or even 30 people in here the conversation really flows.”
All this adds up to more confidence and positivity in the local pub industry than there has been for some years.
Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins, who is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on pubs, said: “In Chesterfield I think we have a really good collection of pubs.
“But whether it is good food, real ale, music or sport, each successful pub recognises that it needs a unique offer.
“And to protect them, just last week we passed legislation in parliament that will give communities more say in the future of their local pubs - making it harder to sell them off or demolish them for supermarkets.”