News that Yates’s Wine Lodge in Blackpool has gone up in flames may well get many journalists of a certain age all misty eyed with nostalgia.
Though now part of the deeply unpleasant Yates’s national pub chain, this vast seaside boozer has been quenching the thirst of journalists, politicians, trade unionists and, of course, holidaymakers, for more than 100 years.
It was where the young Hugh Cudlipp held court during the two years he ran the Blackpool district office of the Manchester Evening Chronicle.
It was where, during party conferences, Keith Waterhouse used to entertain Labour politicians and fellow hacks with his famous egg trick (later included in his hit play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell).
It is rumoured that, in the mid 1970s, Waterhouse won the trousers of another reporter in a bet and then proceeded to introduce the trousers to members of Jim Callaghan’s Cabinet, who were drinking champagne in Yates’s.
Legend has it that Michael Brunson, when ITN’s political editor, once went to the bar of Yates’s and ordered a glass of chardonnay. The local barmaid, amused and confused by his lardy-dah southern accent, replied in a mock-posh voice: ‘Is that a lager shandy or a bitter shandy luv?”
The pub’s champagne on draught and no-nonsense food were not to everyone’s taste, and Simon Hoggart of The Guardian has recalled: ‘There was always something nice about going and having some of their champagne – which you could have used to top up your car battery, it wasn’t one of the “grandes marques” – and eating one of their famous Bosley beef sandwiches.
‘An elderly man stood in front of a gigantic baron of beef and took a white roll, dipped the top of it in gravy, and took a great big slab of fat and gristle with some flecks of meat in it, put it on the lower part of the roll and slapped the slopping gravy-sodden roll on the top. There was enough sheer protein, energy and calories to see you through a long day at conference.”
Yates’s may not rival the likes of the Stab, the Harrow or El Vino in hack boozing history, but if this should be curtains for the old place then we should mourn its passing. And maybe raise a glass to it.