By Becky Stokley
Header image provided by The Stage Door
The British Pub; typically known for having regulars. The retired elderly men, arriving at opening, lethargically leaving a few hours later after reaching the end of their fourth pint of Doombar. The regular workman, arriving just after four, grubby and tired, gasping for a few pints and putting off their inevitable return to exhausted wives and screaming children. After a visit to a local pub in my town of Dartford, just outside London, I began to notice the change in the typical pubgoer.
The Stage Door is situated just behind the Orchard Theatre, a 2-minute walk from Dartford train station, a direct and short route into the buzzing capital. Its name is clearly a clever play on its location, attracting a mixture of clientele.
The landlord, Paul Lynskey and his wife Vicky Holden are the newest owners of The Stage Door. Having visited both during the day and the evening, it’s evident the couple are attempting to diminish the typical British Pub agenda and turn it into a trendy bar for youngsters to spend their Thursday nights in, much like one found in central London.
During my daytime visit, the pub seemed quiet, a few gentlemen sitting around the bar slumped over their pints, sharing the odd laugh and casually discussing families or current affairs, much like you would expect in a British Pub. I noticed a fairly extensive bar menu in front of me and decided to take a flip through. The food was simple bar food such as hot dogs and burgers, but also just what you’d fancy during an evening out with a few friends. However, I didn’t notice anyone order anything from this menu and just assumed the kitchen was closed.
As the evening got on it became evident that the trendy pub grub was more of a popular thing amongst the younger visitors of this pub. Come 6PM the gentlemen who had spent the day here piled out in exchange for a group of young adults, early 20’s and definitely an alternative clientele to the usual.
After speaking to a few of the girls in the group I discovered this was a regular visiting place for the group every weekend. Megan, who currently studies at Middlesex University, spoke of the development of the pub since she started visiting.
“Since Paul and Vicky took over we feel so much more welcome. The jukebox has up to date music on it but not just the chart stuff, a bit of everything. Catfish and the Bottlemen are probably the most popular in this group.”
The group was full of banter and humour. I spoke to another member of the group, Finn, who has worked in the pub for sometimes.
“The pub is a really warm and welcoming place. The owners are so chilled out and it’s actually a really cool place to work.”
I continued to stay with this group for a little getting the impression from the young professionals that spread across the whole pub the ways The Great British Pub is developing into much more. A bar, a place for young people to catch up with their friends. The garden is aesthetically pleasing, long picnic benches scattered around, large umbrellas over them with fairy lights weaved in and out of them and along the fences. Not one person in the group didn’t have a tight roll up in mouth as they lingered between bar and garden.
The Stage Door attempts to balance the two whilst being a fantastic example of the changes in pub and bar culture. The atmosphere of this pub during the evening was different to how it is during the day, but in no way negatively. A reflection in the way the typical Great British Pub is diminishing and being replaced with a contemporary hangout spot for young creative professionals.