Local MP Julian Huppert launched his Discovering Cambridge competition in January, in order to support the independent shops and businesses we have here in Cambridge. People nominate their favourite in a different category throughout each month, with a winner announced at the end of the month. There will also be an over all winner announced at the Mill Road Winter Fair on 7th December.
The Mill Road area has had winners in three of the six categories so far and now lays claim to Cambridge’s best independent music shop (Rhythm Online), best independent specialist food & drink outlet (Limoncello) and best independent coffee shop (Hot Numbers). The category for July is best independent pub and you can nominate your favourite by email, twitter or post – see Julian Huppert’s website for more information.
Best independent pub is an interesting category – the vast majority of pubs are owned by larger breweries and chains; yet they are, in the main, run by a landlord and/or landlady who probably runs only that pub and who brings their own character to the place. Pubs that are part of larger breweries and chains often have certain restrictions placed on them (such as only being allowed to purchase their beer from a specific provider) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of room for making their own unique mark in their local communities (in fact, I reckon most people would be more likely able to name the landlord/landlady of their local than which pub company it belongs to…). I’m not quite sure what definition Julian is going with for his competition (and where part-tied pubs fit in) but if it’s only pubs that are not tied to a larger chain or which are the only pub run by that tenant/owner, then that leaves just a small handful in Cambridge.
I’m going to nominate the Earl of Beaconsfield – Susie and Matt took over the pub last October and have made it into a really lovely place that not only looks after its existing regulars but is welcoming to new visitors too. There’s all sorts of regular music nights (Sunday blues jam, Monday open mic session, Tuesday acoustic jam, Thursday Irish music session and regular jazz Saturdays) and they’re all free, the back room that was previously out of bounds has now been completely transformed into a large games room, the pub now serves food and the beer garden has also had a much needed makeover. They’ve also set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for the pub, as well as recently launching a brand new website. Given all the hard work Susie and Matt have put in to the Beaccy and the great changes that have come as a result in such a short space of time (and bearing in mind the fact that they had never run a pub before!) I think they thoroughly deserve some recognition for their efforts.
Mill Road itself has lost over 60% of its public houses in the last twelve years alone, and now just two pubs remain. So there’s never been a more important time to make sure you use your local, and the sunny weather is the perfect time to try out the ones you haven’t been to for a while or visited before. Just don’t forget to nominate your favourite indie pub by 31st July (tomorrow!).