The engine idled, penned in on all sides by taxis full of weekend revellers. As the sun slipped lower behind high-rise buildings, the lights of the city began to appear in windows from the ground to the sky, illuminating a night filled with excitement, promise, and opportunities to do things that would perhaps be regrettable the next day.
Once upon a time, I would have been demolishing a slap-up meal from the chippy before heading down to work amongst those revellers getting ready in their hotel rooms, lining their stomachs in Maccy’s and sitting in the cab next to me. For a decade, the people of this city had poured into its nucleus to come and visit our pub, to dance to our cheesy music and imbibe one too many of our fruity cocktails. For years upon years, my way of tracking fashion trends relied entirely on the inappropriate outfits of a Saturday night and the pink shirts worn by boys on Bank Holidays.
But time moves on. I’m no longer twenty years old and I can’t stay awake past midnight, let alone work well into the early hours of the following day. I can’t imagine spending a whole bar shift with music battering my ears so much they still ring when the alarm goes off before my next shift. I would probably burst into tears if someone spoke to me in the manner I became accustomed to being addressed by inebriated punters at the wrong end of a dozen jaegerbombs.
And time moves on in the city too. The roads have changed. My mental map of the veins and arteries to get from St George to Clifton needs updating with the infrastructure. The buildings have changed. A police station becomes luxurious student flats. A line of warehouses is ring-fenced for a new hotel. And this is no surprise to me because I moved in when they flattened Cabot Circus shopping centre and rebuilt it in the time it took me to add a BA Hons to my CV.
As the dusk settled over the city like a fine veil, replacing its elegant Georgian past with its brash, bold present, I knew this wasn’t my city anymore.
All the places I had once treasured – the Lizard Lounge I had danced in till 6am, or the LK Bennett where I hated working after I graduated, or the goddamn Magic Roll where I waited for my drunk friends to pick up food on the way home – they’re all gone. My memories, somehow, seem the sadder for knowing no one else will be making their own mistakes in those places.
There is one reassuring thing though. Even though the city of Bristol has consumed a great many bars, clubs and nightlife businesses, ranging from Evolution (shoutout to Mr Wedge, you coke-snorting-young-girl-harassing-absolute-shocker-of-a-DJ, for making our Friday night dreams of sitting down with James come true) to the big brands like Chicago Rock who couldn’t make it work, there, in the epicentre of it all, Greenhouse still stands.
Greenhouse is the pub that Nick had taken from a rough boozer and made into the place you wanted to visit on a bar crawl because it was a bit naff and it didn’t take itself too seriously, and because of that was a safe space to be hammered and dancing to The Summer of ’69. It’s still there. It’s still going. In fact, it’s doing even better than ever (presumably because they no longer play Bryan Adams anymore). It’s still relevant to Saturday nights in 2018, just as it was in 2004 when my housemate got me a job there.
Because, you see, it’s true that we are still losing a huge volume of not just pubs, but businesses across the entire hospitality sector, and just as we’re here today, we might be gone tomorrow. For independents, the struggle is R.E.A.L. Corporate brands find themselves moving further and further away from the customer experience as they consolidate processes to protect themselves for the inevitable calamity that might mean curtains for them too.
Some things don’t change though, like the traffic in Bristol. The next time I found myself idling at a set of lights, therefore, it happened to be directly outside the front door of the pub we had called home for so long. Greenhouse is no longer green. It’s something akin to Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe. It’s no longer decorated on a scheme I found on Pinterest. It’s no longer owned by the same company, offering the same type of food or even battling against the same absolutely horrendous toilets. It’s had an expensive makeover and it looks bloody awesome. It stands proudly in its place, almost like the Original Gangster of Park Street. It has adapted, it has moved on, it is still what its customers want it to be.
The traffic lights slid down the kaleidoscope of colours until we all pulled off. My engine reinvigorated itself and as I headed in the direction of home, I watched my favourite building in the whole city – the one where I had fallen in love, got a job, got engaged, got married and got my own business – recede in my rear-view mirror.
I know it’ll still be there next time I go back, giving me the reassurance to carry on moving forward.
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Slowly but surely you helped to breathe life back into the place. You filled it up with love and laughter. You have dragged it back from obscurity to place it back into the heart of the community.
Like so many others, we got into this trade because we love sharing these little boltholes with others and watching you enjoy them and make memories to cherish between these walls. We do it because we like a bit of banter whilst pouring a beer. We’ve always believed in doing the best we can with the circumstances we’ve got.
Time to whip up a quick homemade soup with whatever veggies you’ve got in your fridge.