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pubs: British Guild of Beer Writers' Best Regional Writer.

Byline: Mike Chapple at the bar...

'WE APOLOGISE for any inconvenience caused."

This catch-all catchphrase on the Big Dig, sorry, on Lord Street, always brings a sardonic smile to the face.

Marvelling at its "have a nice day" blandness conjures up Ricky Gervais's words "Are you having a laugh?" from the Extras comedy series, especially considering the continuing carbuncle on the butt the Dig remains to this city's business trade.

The nannies on the outside may know best and be eager to calm us whingeing Scousers down with promises of fields of plenty once it's all completed.

But try telling that to those whose trade has already been brought to its knees by the construction jiggery-pokery that's been going on.

Take the Old Post Office pub, on School Lane.

It may not be about to keel over just yet but the roadworks and combined developments of the Grosvenor, Primark and Bluecoat projects has left the area around this popular city centre boozer almost a no-go zone for months with a consequent effect on the takings.

Tellingly, as we approached one dinnertime this week, tripping daintily through the road blocks and concrete carnage, Daily Post Arts Editor Mr Phil "wotcha cock"

Key remarked: "Are you sure this place is open, mate?"

But indeed it was - with Elvis on the radio behind the bar whooping it up with Hound Dog on what was the 30th anniversary of his death, and a healthy crew of regulars supping ale and tucking into the Post Office's good-value quality food with gusto.

"You should have seen this place before all this mess outside started up, though - you couldn't move in here at lunchtime," said Stan Jones, who has run the pub with genial wife Marie for the past six years.

Some time before they took over, the Pub Column had resolved never to return to these premises after a particularly unpleasant bar steward whipped away a near full pint a mere five minutes after last orders had been called, an unpardonable crime in pub etiquette terms.

But good reports about this couple's top-notch reputation for their stewardship - after other lengthy stints at The Goat, on Great Howard Street, Melling's Horse and Jockey and the much-missed Vernon Arms, on Dale Street - had enticed me back.

And we were glad that we came despite the constant racket from the building work being carried on outside.

The pub has a very faithful hard core of old and family customers, although even their devotion has been tested to the hilt by the limited access and the absence of street lighting at night.

Stan adds: "This used to be a marvellous thoroughfare from Paradise Street with lots of passing trade - that's been blocked off now so the amount of trade we've lost over the last couple of years has been phenomenal.

"Word of mouth has kept us going and we're very lucky to have the customers that we still have.

"But this is a very competitive area, and if people decide to move somewhere else where they're looked after equally as well then it's very difficult to tempt them back."

The Pub Column has already been told by informed sources that the protracted Big Dig has caused far more damage to the city's pub trade than any smoking ban could have ever have done.

So, next time you're out on the town, spare a thought for our Old Post Office - it really does give first-class delivery and deserves your support.


The Old Post Office pub, in School Lane, which is being affected by building
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2007
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