Landmark Hunslet pub the Parnaby Tavern has – for the second time running – been shortlisted for the prestigious Yorkshire Evening Post Pub of the Year award. And having come second last time, they’re looking to go one better this year – but need our help, this week! South Leeds Life grabbed a few minutes with landlord Mark Greenwood, to find out more…
The Parnaby Tavern overlooks the city, at the northern end of Middleton Road in Hunslet Carr. An ancient pub – the Cemetery Tavern – stood on the site since at least the 1850s, built into an old terraced row. The current building dates back to the 1920s, and the name was changed in the 1950s to the Parnaby (after local landowner John Parnaby, who lived in the area in the late 1700s and 1800s).
On a busy Sunday afternoon, landlord Mark is warm and relaxed, stopping to chat and share banter with many of the punters. But he’s passionate too, especially about the wider role he sees pubs as having in their communities:
“More than anything else, pubs need to serve their communities. So, here at the Parnaby, we work with a lot of local people to hold charity fundraiser events. And every Wednesday we open up early to hold a dementia-friendly get-together, from 2pm. Many of those who come are otherwise incredibly isolated, and we’re simply helping them to break that. It means so much to see people just having a laugh, to see the life in their eyes.”
But life is not easy in the pub industry nowadays. With 20-30 pubs closing every week in the UK, and just 48,000 left in total (down from a peak of 75,000 in the 1960s), pubs are having to adapt, Mark explains – or simply cease to exist:
“A pub like the Parnaby – even 10 years ago – was busy much of the week, without trying. But now, that’s just not the case. So we hold quite a lot of parties – for kids, Senior Citizens, and all ages. In fact, our events space has been a lifeline: loads of different people use it, for keep-fit (on Tuesday nights), for live music, and more. We’ve got football and pool teams, that we try to support. We’ve got a barbecue area out back. And we’re always open to new ideas, and new people – just get in touch.”
So can pubs survive the twenty-first century? Mark admits that it’s hard:
“People have got hundreds of satellite TV channels at home, and bills to pay each week. The supermarkets use their size and power to sell their drinks cheap. And too often the pub companies (who either own the pubs, or with whom the landlords contract) aren’t helping – they’re typically short-sighted, taking out more than they put in, despite the crisis in the pub industry.”
But, he argues, pubs do still have a unique role to play:
“At their best, pubs are friendly, safe, warm – hubs for their communities, for people of all ages to meet, gather, and have a laugh. Here at the Parnaby, I think we’re all those things – thanks mainly to our great loyal customers, who make this place what it is. People are always welcome: drop by, see what you think, and consider voting for us. It’d be fantastic to win this award – not just for ourselves, but to put Hunslet on the map.”
For further info on the YEP’s Pub of the Year competition, click here or pick up a copy of the paper. Votes must be submitted on one of the voting slips printed in the paper, by 10am this Friday (20 November 2015) – either to the Yorkshire Evening Post offices, or at the Parnaby Tavern (or at any of the short-listed pubs).