The weekend's article about the newly refurbished Crown Tavern triggered some discussion of the Brockley Barge, with some wishing that it could be more like the Tavern and less like a Wetherspoons.Good news @BrockleyCentral The Brockley Barge gets in the 2016 Good beer guide https://t.co/jsx5xmOUzh— ian faragher (@ianfaragher) November 5, 2015
Pubs and restaurants are in short supply in the area and are essentially strategic assets for the neighbourhood, so it's inevitable these kinds of discussions spring up from time to time. But while the resurrection of local pubs like The Talbot and The Honor Oak as relatively upmarket boozers is welcome, it's important to acknowledge that The Barge is a successful, busy pub with a diverse clientèle.
The Barge is actually that rarest of things: a community pub, used by students, families, young professionals and yes, some elderly alcoholics who treat it as a cheap form of sheltered accommodation.
Not only that, it has raised its game in recent years, improving the environment, discouraging some of the wrong-uns that have traditionally frequented it and expanding its offer.
The Barge has just celebrated its entry in the Good Beer Guide, which says of the place:
Caesar has been the general manager at the Brockley Barge since 2013, and he's been with JDW for almost 20 years and he knows a few things about running a pub.
Caesar did explain though that it's the good work of all the staff that produces success, not least the pub's cellar champion Thomas. "Thomas and I work together on targets for improvement and are now selling more beers than ever."
The pub does seem different from say ten years ago, more customers for a start - locals, local Jamaicans, people on the way back home from the office, students, dating couples, friends of all ages, at two separate tables nearby French was being spoken, a few hipster beards were visible - all to the sound of people enjoying each others company it's what a pub should be.
They also look after their staff pretty well, according to my housemate who works behind the bar there.
My view is simple - where businesses are failing, closed or behaving criminally, then let's upgrade them to something that people want. Often that will mean "nice places to hang out" - the third spaces on our high street, which are so loathed by anti-gentrifiers but which are what paying customers actually want. Bars, restaurants, cafes, salons and more often than not, some fusion of all four. We should be unapologetic in calling for more of these things.
But when something works and keeps lots of people very happy, then let's turn our attention on the places that are struggling. If any pub needs to rethink its approach, it's the Wickham Arms, which limps on without investment or clear direction.
Meanwhile, let's celebrate The Brockley Barge for what it is, rather mourn what isn't.