Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Whither Wetherspoon's?

The Wetherspoon chain of pubs in the UK has always striven to be a little bit different. Their ability to takeover existing buildings such as old cinemas, theatres and the like and to transform them into civilised places to drink has taken them a long way. Their commitment to good beers and ales, sourced from all around the world, has introduced the palates of a new generation of drinkers to the delights of ‘real ale’ at a fair price. Meanwhile, their early morning opening times, and service of a full English breakfast for as little as £2.10 (just around $4, for the benefit of any trans-continental readers of this column) is a rare bargain in a world of ever-increasing costs.

Now, they’ve gone wi-fi, and are currently offering 30 minutes of free wi-fi access to all customers. For the cost of one of their very fine Lavazza coffees (just 79p in most of their premises across the country – even if a disappointed Chelsea player would be asked to pay 99p in central London), you can ‘surf the net’, catch up on e-mails and even – as I am this very minute – post to a blog. And all from the comfort of a sunny conservatory overlooking the Cheshire countryside.

I don’t wish my good friend Thomas Hamburger Jnr to feel redundant, however. Without the patient explanation of the pub manager, I would probably still be stuck at stage one of the helpful instructions they provide for you to connect up. But, it’s personal progress of a sort, for me, even if, in future, I’ll still be asking Tommy to do my postings.

The whole experience has, however, given me a genuine love of the Wetherspoon ethos. Long may they thrive. I know Mr Hamburger would agree – since his genealogical mystery has more than once name-checked The Brass Balance in Birkenhead, which I know was always a particular favourite of his.

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