£100k revamp helps pub to move with the times
BEFORE Forest matches, supporters pile in and lubricate their singing voices at the Southbank Bar.
The large modern pub just down from the City Ground on the south-east corner of Trent Bridge acts as an unofficial Reds headquarters when Forest are at home and a popular haven for real ales, pub food and live music the rest of the time.
It is very much not a picture of the British pub in trouble.
So there might have been confusion recently when the place temporarily shut for a massive renovation.
The idea behind it was less 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' and more 'you can always make a good thing better'.
"It's extremely busy for all the sport at weekends and evenings," said Dave Willans, director of Great Northern Inns, the Nottingham-based company that owns the Southbank.
The bar had picked up the usual wear and tear over the years, and Great Northern were looking at making some cosmetic repairs.
"We needed to spend some money just to improve the floors, the toilets and the bar as well," Dave said.
"We've sold a few pints over that bar in the last 15 years and it showed a bit.
"And pub culture is changing – we had to make ourselves more amenable to people who wanted to go out and eat during the week."
Or even at the weekend. Part of Great Northern Inns' philosophy has always been to offer pubs that show sport rather than "sport pubs" with all the vertical-drinking booze barn culture that implies.
As such, they wanted to make sure they're offering a full pub experience, even when people are watching or getting ready for the match. Footie fans want a plate of food and some different ales too.
"We want to encourage people to come out, have a plate of food and watch the match, particularly on a week night when they've got work in the morning."
As part of the £100,000 refurbishment, they broke up the pub's interior and created different areas. The pub was previously quite open – there is now more booth and restaurant-style seating. They've also moved the stage into a corner and made it slightly smaller.
Which is not to say the place will become more demure and restaurant-like.
"Don't get me wrong, we've upgraded the PA system as well," Dave said. "It'll create a better quality sound."
And that, Dave reckons, is a good thing: "I do believe we've got the pick of some of the best bands in Nottingham."
This isn't overly important right now, but they've also made improvements to the outdoor area that faces the Trent.
"In the summer there'll be more places for people to sit, if we ever get a summer," Dave said.
That's about the only element of the business Dave doesn't seem to mind not having control over.
He considers the ability to do major work such as that done at the Southbank to be a big part of the business plan.
"A lot of our premises are freehold or on long leases and that means we can afford to invest in them," he said.
"We're in for the long run. We'll reinvest in the outlets and we won't let them turn into dumps before we reinvest."