I visited The Jubilee last week. It’s a pub designed by renowned architect Walter Brierley and constructed in 1897 in Queen Anne style.
It stands proudly on the corner of Balfour Street not far from the National Railway Museum.
Oh and by the way it’s closed for business.
The legacy of mismanagement by its former owners is well documented but it’s still a source of great anger to many that this architectural work of art is not open, thriving and serving the local community.
Just consider its size and wealth of resources: two downstairs bars, a downstairs sports room, an upstairs cavernous purpose built function room plus an additional meeting room.
Yet over several recent years pub company Enterprise Inns, with a net worth of £1 billion, let this gem stagnate to the point where they shut it in the hope of redevelopment and a tidy profit from its disposal.
The estate agents were holding an open day. Ironically the front door was locked, symbolically perhaps.
Access was through a small grubby half door in the far corner an unkempt yard through grilled gates with a large hanging padlock.
This lack of accessibility was just an extension of what has happened with the place so far. The owners, who bought it from Enterprise, have a planning application in for conversion to six flats.
Local residents and York CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) submitted a detailed objection document with a compelling argument that the pub had not been properly marketed as a going concern – and the planning officer agreed.
However the owners are giving every impression that they don’t really want to sell the place or even make any great effort to do so. The two pitiful For Sale signs are mounted at points where the least people will see them.
Two things struck you when you walked through this licensed mausoleum.
There’s no logical reason why you would want to let your valuable asset degrade to the extent it positively deters patrons. Unless you had an alternative agenda.
The second thing that became apparent as you walked from the front bar to the back was the truly awful state of dilapidation that the pub company had allowed the decor to descend to. No wonder it attracted so few regulars at the end with its distressed gaudy carpets and matted black shiny congealed seating.
There’s a state of grotesque suspended animation. It was as though the nuclear siren had wailed and people had walked out and left it as it was.
Beer fonts perched dustily on the bar and shelving fully laden with glasses ready to take delivery of a pint of foaming ale.
We’re living in an age of conspiracy theory so it’s fair to ask why any rational business would do this. How about the fact that you can make more money from selling a building for redevelopment than keeping it as a pub?
Putting aside pro-pub prejudice for a couple of seconds if you could redevelop a pulchritudinous building and make a cool million, what’s not to like…
That’s the flaw in the ideology of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
As a pure bricks and mortar calculation The Jubilee could net the owners a very sizeable profit if converted to desirable flats. But at what loss to the local community?
People point to its current parlous state. You can’t always judge an entity by what it is now. You judge it by its potential.
Is it the best it can ever be at this current moment, or with care and attention in the right hands could it become a credit to the area again?
What would have happened if our forefathers had adopted the same disregard for preserving architectural gems for future generations?
York has a wealth of great buildings that have been maintained in line with principles of sustainability and good stewardship. It’s a fundamental reason for its appeal and thriving tourist sector.
So let’s hope that at least one of the several interested parties that viewed the property at the open day see fit to put in an offer for the pub – and we can look forward to it opening again in the same spirit as when it first opened as an “improved public house” 120 years ago.
A place to meet and socialise. An amenity and resource for the benefit of the local community.