When Jamie Hawksworth and Jon Holdsworth tentatively opened a small bar in a quiet York street on September 16 2007 they had little idea where the journey they were embarking on would take them.
It takes a hefty dose of chutzpah to leave behind safe jobs in Network Rail, max up your credit cards to stock a pub with a then unknown lager you import exclusively from the Czech Republic and open to an unsuspecting public in a building that had never been a public house before.
I happened to be passing that bar on Patrick Pool on the second day it opened – and was met by two red faced, perplexed owners grappling with the problem of how to dispense Bernard Lager without filling the glass with 80% froth.
From inauspicious first impressions though there was something that made me go back to Pivni, and back and back again. You get the gist…
Alluring and relaxing
You look at Pivni now it has all the handsome swagger of a hostelry that has been around since anyone could remember. It’s a business that exemplifies all those chameleonesque qualities needed to survive in the highly competitive York pub trade.
During daylight hours when the sunlight streams through leaded windows onto gnarled 15th century beams and creaking floors, it can be quiet and reflective and yet as evening falls it oozes a crepuscular charm that is both alluring and relaxing. It’s comfortable in its own skin and it rubs off on its customers.
There’s a great selection of ever rotating real ales; craft keg beers and premium spirits which keeps people coming back for more.
The Good Beer Guide for 2018, launched this week by CAMRA, yet again includes it in a select group of the best 12 York pubs to sell real ale.
Its expansion in utilising all three floors to cope with its popularity is symbolic of the empire that this keystone of the Pivovar company spawned.
There’s now nine bars, two breweries and a burgeoning drinks wholesale division with a distribution centre based in Elvington.
Quality and beauty
For me what’s good to see is that the founders haven’t compromised their values in search of big financial gains through aggressive expansion.
The foundation of the business was a hands–on commitment to quality and to running great bars. Add to that a predilection for beautiful buildings and you get the likes of the Sheffield Tap and The York Tap.
To hear a detailed interview about how it all began that I did with Jamie Hawksworth for YorkMix a couple of years ago when the Pavement Vaults was just about to open, click the link below.
Otherwise – raise a glass this weekend and say “Na zdraví” to that diminutive bar in Patrick Pool that started something special that has hugely benefitted not just the York bar and beer scene but the UK as a whole.