Dave Wade has an alternative kind of local….
Yes, that’s right “Club”, so although much of CAMRAs focus is on the “Pub” for me for many, years, when I wanted a pint, I made a trip to the local “Club”. This was not a late-night entertainment centre but our village cricket club. It was owned and run by the villagers and offered a wide range of facilities in addition well cricket.
Similar establishments owned and operated by and for their members are dotted around the country. Some date back to 1800’s but many were formed in the 20th century. They were founded with the aim of bringing together like-minded people with common interest such as a sport, a political party or a simply as a social space for workers in a local industry.
As they were and still are owned by their members, the clubs could buy alcohol “on behalf” of the members, who could then consume it on the club premises, in the same way as they could at home, under a “club licence” thus side-stepping some of the strict licencing laws in the 20th century . Being managed by volunteers they often offered beer at very attractive prices.
In the current alcohol laws a similar his distinction continues, and many clubs operate under a “clubs premises certificate” which only permits them to serve alcohol to members and guests. However whilst a few, especially political clubs, still limit membership most clubs are open and welcome new members. Even the sports clubs welcome associate or social members who just want to use the facilities and contribute to the club funds by using the bar.
What can I expect if I visit?
In most clubs, if you wish to apply for membership you can expect a warm welcome, although as they are run by the members who are normally unpaid volunteers, actually joining may be a challenge.
Clubs vary widely in the facilities they offer. Many have real ale on offer, sometimes just a single pump with a national beer, but in others it may be one or two local beers. In exceptional cases, such as in Flixton Conservative club, the National CAMRA club of the year for 2018 you will typically find up to six changing beers on offer the focus is on local and regional breweries such as Dunham Massey, Pictish and Elland. Like several local clubs Camra members are admitted.
The clubs are owned by their members so as well as beer most clubs will have a range of social facilities. They usually own their own premises many have space for facilities which the PubCos have removed from their pubs so they can downsize and sell the land for housing or offices.
Of course the Sports Clubs usually own a sports ground, but outside you will also find bowling greens, a feature which continues to disappear from many pubs at an alarming rate. Inside many have full sized snooker tables again a luxury that most pubs have dispensed with. Those I have visited with such a feature include Flixton Con Club as mentioned above, along with Sale United Services Club, Woodheyes Club, Sale but many more have this facility.
At the more mundane level the Sports Clubs may show some of the less popular sports on TV so when football and Rugby, clash if you are a member Trafford Metrovicks Rugby Club in Sale will of course have the rugby match on their projection TV and you can enjoy the game whilst supping a pint of their own labelled beer from Dunham Massy.
Today CAMRA recognises that members clubs provide a valuable community resource and also offer a range of quality beer so actively encourages our members to support them. Like our Pubs many of clubs are facing financial pressures from dwindling membership or the closure of their supporting businesses, and over the years many have closed.
So if you fancy taking up Snooker, Cricket or Rugby or just want to watch others participate, consider checking out your local members club.