The following article is from the 2006 edition of Ale Cry, the journal of the West Lancashire branch of CAMRA, by kind permission.
Late August should see the opening of another free house in Preston. In early May it was announced that C2 Investments Ltd had purchased Lionel's Bar, the former Guild Tavern (and before that, Central Hotel) from Thwaites. C2i, as they are known, may not be immediately recognisable to some readers, but anyone who has visited the Waterwitch or Sun Hotel in Lancaster in recent years, will have been impressed with a C2i pub.
A couple of days before finding out about the Guild Tavern, this correspondent was in these two Lancaster pubs thinking it was high time Preston had something like this.
A 16 week refurbishment will see a remodelled interior, new toilets and a new kitchen in the pub which is alongside the Guildhall and behind the Stanley Arms. Also, promised are 8 handpumps which will feature two beers from Thwaites, two from Lancaster brewery (in which C2i has interests) and four guests, often sourced from local micros. Over 50 bottled beers from around 30 countries as well as draught fruit beers and continental beers will be stocked.
C2i Director, Matt Jackson, recently enthused to Ale Cry about the new venture. He describes C2i as an investment and leisure company, with shares in Lancaster brewery and subletting another (Sante Bar)
Was it part of the terms of sale by Thwaites that you continue to take their beers?
Not at all. Thwaites cask ales are excellent, with Bomber a favourite. Also with Budvar and Warsteiner you get great lagers through Thwaites. The Sun recently won wine pub of the year (2003/4) in the Licensee and Morning Advertiser. We persuaded one of the judges to join Thwaites’ wine department, the result being that we can now get great wines through Thwaites.
Would the pub hold regular beer festivals?
A recent innovation at the Lancaster pubs has been brewery showcases, where the entire range from a brewery (or as many as the bar will hold) will be available for a short time, sometimes with representation from brewery employees. There is no reason why the Guild Tavern could not be included in these.
Are C2i looking for any more pubs?
The Guild Tavern is seen as a long term asset and is a huge challenge with the location (Tithebarn project new bus station etc) being tricky, so we really need it to be a success. Long term, though, C2i have a very healthy relationship with Thwaites (the Sun Hotel was also a Thwaites pub), and a couple of sites in Blackburn are under consideration. Hoever, these could be dependant on the extent of the success of the Guild Tavern.
Some might say the Jazz Bar, opposite the Guild tavern could be a problem...
We offer premium products, quality surroundings and great service. These are not available at £l a pint style offers. The clientele of ‘bargain price pubs’ would not enjoy a C2i pub (or vice-versa, maybe) and would not go into one more than a couple of times. When we took over the Sun Hotel, it was seen to be in a troublesome area, but it seemed to sort itself out. Also, we are willing to invest in the area, and expect support from the Council and police. The Sun sorted itself out; hopefully we will have little trouble at the Guild tavern.
What should we expect from the Guild Tavern?
Great cask ale, of course. Women friendly, clean toilets no alcopops. Kitchen open at lunchtime and the famous, C2i cheese and pate board available through the day You have to have clean toilets if you wish to attract female clienteles. Also, if you have a group of workmates trying to decide where to go, the cask ale drinker amongst them is always the more knowledgeable ana will often get the vote.
It is intended the Guild Tavern be more like the Sun than the Waterwitch, almost a sister pub.
So is Matt Jackson a bloke worth listening to? The Waterwitch and Sun Hotel always seem to be winning awards from the trade papers, as well as Lunesdale CAMRA. you will find both pubs in the 2006 Good Beer Guide. I remember reading an article in one of the trade papers, slating many pub managers as lazy because it is not that hard to keep good beer, to check small thing like loo-rolls in the toilets and the ashtrays are not overflowing etc. Who wrote that article? Matt Jackson from the Waterwitch. An article in the 2005 GBG carries a photo of the Waterwitch (p10/11) and some soundbites from Matt (p12, although the Waterwitch now has 12 handpumps). Matt was also on the judging panel for the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain for four years, until last year.
During our chat Matt showed knowledge of the bars in Preston, saying the Hush was well managed but could not understand why they did not go that final one step and introduce cask ale. He certainly knows the right things to say, and judging by the results in Lancaster, he can back them up.J Mark Ashton West Lancs Camra '