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If the Woolpack closes down, 'there is little hope' for other pubs in King's Lynn

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, May 31, 2019

Turn left at the Woolpack. I must have used this phrase hundreds of times while giving directions, and I guess that I am not alone.

However, it may soon need a bit of revision. Turn left at the House of Multiple Occupancy doesn’t quite have the same ring. Still, if the owners of the Woolpack are successful in their application, that is what the pub will become.

When I first moved to Lynn around 40 years ago, the Woolpack was my closest pub. I think it was the time when Harry Lusher, once of the Captain Vancouver, was the landlord, though I have a better memory of John, who ran it for several years before taking on the Red Lion in Wisbech.

It seemed at one time I was forever phoning the pub as their darts captain was very slow at sending in their results, and I did have to sort out a problem while league secretary when a darts player from the Ship or White Horse was banned, and was not allowed in to play his game. It was that kind of place. Lots going on for the locals, and no nonsense tolerated.

I recently met up with a former colleague and was reminded how we went down the Woolpack after work when he had had his leaving do back in 1989. John had a couple of pints and went home, but a few of us stayed on and made an evening of it.

I think it was the night that I composed my most memorable song ‘I’m in the Doghouse, Woof, Woof, Woof’ which made its rather unwelcome debut as I crept home at closing time, with the second verse, ‘Sssh, mustn’t wake her up’ reflecting my aspirations, rather than the unfortunate reality.

Soon, it may be relegated to just a name on an old map like all its near neighbours. Gone are the Ship and Swan at Gaywood. Gone is the Spread Eagle down the road. North Lynn has lost the Discovery and the North Star and there is no longer the option of crossing the Walks to the Seven Sisters.

The Woolpack, Gaywood Road
The Woolpack, Gaywood Road

Why have we come to this? If the reports are correct, it is because college students drink less.

I have never run a pub, so there may be flaws in my ideas, but perhaps it could be possible to offer some kind of lunch deal that does not involve alcohol. Maybe a loyalty card.

Perhaps all the people who live within a 10-minute walk could be enticed there, obviating the need for parking?

It is not yet a done deal, with planning permission still required. I will be filing my objection, and if you are quick, maybe you could do the same.

Will it make any difference? The council’s record of saving pubs is not good. The Railway Arms on Downham Station was allowed to be reinvented as a coffee shop despite having a listing as an Asset of Community Value.

The Lord Kelvin apparently had no chance of attracting any trade despite being in the busiest part of town.

The Marshland Arms out on the Smeeth was several kilometres from the nearest pub, but still allowed to close its doors forever. An application for a bar and bistro in Emneth was refused.

Still, we have had elections recently, and perhaps the new councillors are made of sterner stuff and recognise the value of the community local.

Let’s hope so, because if the Woolpack is allowed to close because it is impossible to attract enough of the thousands who live and work close by, there is little hope for any other local pub.

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