The ‘proper’ Bristol pub where the city’s oldest landlord serves pints at 1990s prices
The pub is located close to an area earmarked for regeneration but the landlord may have to close it in the near future
Sad. That was the general reaction from regulars at The Crown Tavern who had heard the rumour that this long-established St Jude’s pub may be closing.
Owner Dominic still hasn’t decided if or when he will close the doors but then at the age of 82, what must be Bristol’s oldest hands-on landlord can do pretty much whatever he likes.
When I asked him why he was closing, his response was an unequivocal ‘VAT, the taxman and energy bills.’ He then proceeded to demonstrate how much money from each pint goes on VAT and tax, moving around the coins I had handed over for my pint.
Dominic has run the pub for the past 29 years, and he ran other Bristol pubs for around the same time before that. Some of his regulars say the prices are the same as they were in the 1990s.
Spirits are £1 a shot and most pints are under £3 - all available for cash-only in this card-free free house.
My pint of Bass - perfectly kept, crystal clear and served in a gleaming branded Bass glass - was £2.50, which must make it one of the cheapest pints in Bristol at the moment. Two pints for £5 - not many places can match that.
Also on tap is Blackthorn Dry, Stella Artois, Guinness and two keg beers I haven’t seen in a pub for at least 20 years - Whitbread Best Bitter and Whitbread Trophy Bitter.
In fact I can’t recall seeing Trophy Bitter since the mid-1970s when it was advertised on the TV with the catchy jingle ‘Big head, big head, Trophy Bitter, the pint that thinks it’s a quart’.
And I can’t remember seeing a chunky Superser gas heater in a pub for decades either, but that’s what was warming the area of the bar near the dart board and Victorian fireplace.
For years I had heard a story that The Crown Tavern used to have a boxing ring around the back but couldn’t find any evidence of it beyond a couple of boozy pub conversations.
I asked Dominic about this. He nodded and pointed to a framed black and white photo attached to one of the pillars in the bar.
The photo shows Bristol boxing promoter Bert Budd with seven young boxers training with huge medicine balls attached to the floor.
Although undated, it appears to be from the late 1940s or early 1950s and there’s a handwritten caption that reads ‘St Judes Boxing Club’, which for a time was based at The Crown Tavern. It’s a fascinating snapshot of this pub’s heritage.
If and when Dominic calls time on this historic and timeless Bristol pub, it will certainly be the end of an era.
But with huge plans for redevelopment in St Jude’s, let’s hope there are plenty of ambitious local breweries interested in taking it over. It’s an absolute gem and I’m sure it still has a future as a pub.
The Crown Tavern, 17 Lawfords Gate, Bristol, BS2 0DY.