We St Andreans are experiencing a grave time in our history. Another great pillar of our community – the illustrious Blue Stane – is closing for “refurbishment.” Of course, it’s folly to believe that this is what’s actually happening: it’s being gutted, transformed, overhauled. It’s undergoing a metamorphosis, a mutation that will see it change beyond all recognition. Where once a proud, Scottish drinking establishment stood, a new and unfamiliar Irish pub shall rise.
Alas, the Blue Stane deserves a far better obituary than anything I can write, but it really was one of the town’s great pubs, at least in my estimation. Whilst guilty of some drinking
sins (tellies are not pubby) it was a cracking all-rounder, with plenty going for it. Pool tables? Check. Cheap pints? Check. Juke box? Check. Quiz machine that regularly released gifts of five pounds or more? Double check. But, unfortunately, given the universal nature of the only comparable refurb in town (requiescat in pace, Whey Pat) there’s no reason to believe that its successor, Molly Malones, will preserve any of these hallmark features.
In fact, my money’s on Molly Malones distancing itself from its traditional clientele, and wooing some very different patrons. Perhaps customers that frequent the golf courses, or American tourists with holiday money to spend. At any rate, something tells me that students scraping together silvers and coppers for their next pint will probably find Molly Malones to be very different to the old Stane.
I am therefore deeply confused as to why the end of the Stane hasn’t been discussed more, especially as it’s not an isolated incident. It pains me to think that incoming freshers will never experience the joys of Drouthy Neebors, the Beer Kitchen, Rascal’s, and the old Whey Pat. The St Andrews pub scene, one of the most attractive aspects of the town, is changing quickly and irrevocably, and skint, proto-alcoholic students like myself are therefore left with a very important question: where can I get leathered on the cheap? Or, perhaps more appropriately, where am I welcome to get leathered on the cheap?
As much as I don’t want to, I get the impression that I might have to cross the Stane’s successor off that list, which leaves me with depressingly few options. I was brought up to baulk at drinks that demanded more than £2.50 from me and, thanks to the great communities of the North West, there were very few pubs at home that didn’t maintain a good vibe on those prices.
Fewer and fewer St Andrean boozers are emulating this winning formula, with only one (the Rule, with its extremely generous student deal) coming close to possessing the great
pubbing virtues of affordability and atmosphere.
What’s more, I know exactly why all the good pubs are going, not that this enlightenment has made me any happier. Belhaven (or Greene King – I’m not sure how far up the chain the conspiracy goes) is gutting and rebranding their pubs because they think it will make the brewery more money and, frustratingly, they’re probably right. Belhaven’s new Whey Pat is doing brilliantly post-refurb, and the performance of other rejuvenated pubs across town lends further credence to the refurb doctrine. They’re playing catchup with our town’s grander public houses, and doing rather well at it, but I think they’re leaving students behind in the process.
The sad thing is, as much as I adore St Andrews’ pubs, worryingly few are actual free houses, untethered to a particular brewery. Unless I’m wrong, all of the town’s pubs bar
Aikmans, the Criterion, and the Keys are beholden to a higher power. This means that any and all changes can (and will) be imposed from the top down, with little to no input from the customers, the lifeblood of any pub. It’s a shame that such a small and gorgeous town is so dominated by such a small number of companies. (Which, may I say, extends beyond our public houses.)
So, what’s to be done? Sod all, I suspect. Change is the only constant, as some Greek bloke (probably) said two and half millennia ago. As with the town’s other rebrands, Molly
Malones will almost certainly do a roaring trade as soon as it reopens its doors, and I suppose I’ll just have to watch as people slowly but surely forget about its predecessor, and console myself with the knowledge not all the properly good boozers in town have disappeared – at least, not yet. Goodnight, sweet Blue Stane: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. I suppose we’ll just have to make do with your replacement.