With 40-plus pubs and venues to their name, InnBrighton has grown out of the Zel chain to become the city’s most prolific retail business. You’ve probably been in a dozen this month already without realising it. We spoke to head barkeep Gavin George.
The Mash Tun was your first pub – wasn’t it quite controversial at the time?
It was, yes. I was a student here and there weren’t many places for the young, so when we got the opportunity we aimed it at the sort of place we wanted to go to. Other pub owners thought we were ripping the heart out of pubs by taking out the sticky carpets and flock wallpaper, but then there was an onslaught of pubs like that…
What’s the difference between InnBrighton and other chains?
Identifiable chains have strict guidelines on how they look, what they sell and how they’re managed. And that works for them, people know what they’re going to get. But with us every site has a different atmosphere and vibe, it’s important to maintain that variety and independence. We’ve always tried to make the sites symbiotic with Brighton, making sure they’re more than just places to drink. They’re Brighton pubs for Brighton people.
What kind of pubs are succeeding in the current economic climate?
The licensed trade has certainly been hammered, although closures are slowing down. We’ve lost thousands over the UK, even in Brighton, which I never thought I’d see. I think the survivors have good basics - cleanliness and service, but the ones that really succeed have personality, the things they do are right for their audiences. Creativity, originality, and fun – that’s important.
Isn’t the whole InnBrighton chain carbon neutral?
Yes, in fact I’m meeting our carbon consultant in a minute. They work out our energy usage and we pay to plant trees in Uganda to make up for it. We’ve been doing that for 18 years now.
Do you worry about live venues closing due to noise issues?
The reason I’m wearing a suit today is that I’ve been at a council meeting about Jam this morning, making sure it can develop as a live venue. Middle Street has residents as well as commercial property and we can be very late opening there. There’s been opposition but we’ve just been allowed later hours so we’re really pleased. There’s no similar sized venue in the city, and it’s doubly important in light of the Freebutt and Pressure Point. We’ll do our utmost to keep live music happening in Brighton.
PHOTO BY JAMES KENDALL
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