Photo by Don Kelsen via Getty Images

RIP Blockbuster, but cheers to pubs

Mike Pomranz
October 01, 2018

The demise of Blockbuster Video may have been terrible news for anyone who invested their life savings in Blockbuster Video, but it’s been great news for the people of Bournemouth. The coastal English town is now home to the UK’s National Cider Pub after the annual award was given to a small “micropub” housed in a spot that used to belong to the global video chain.

The Firkin Shed—named after a small cask used for serving beer—opened in 2015 when former painter and decorator Paul Gray and his wife Lisa decided to convert a shuttered Blockbuster storefront located in a row of shops into a tiny pub. For the past three years, the cozy watering hole has served a rotating selection of six cask beers and about 20 ciders from across the country. In 2017, the British beer organization CAMRA named the Firkin Shed the local Cider Pub of the Year and Beer Drinkers’ Pub of the Year in the East Dorset area, but this year, the small pub took home the national cider prize after beating out three other finalists. “Wow, what a difference,” the UK’s Morning Advertiser reported, repurposing Blockbuster’s old slogan.

“Paul Gray and his team have done brilliantly to convert a former video shop into a national award-winning and very popular micropub in such a short time,” Sarah Newson, the competition’s organizer, was quoted as saying.

Though pub closures have been big news in the United Kingdom—in August, the BBC reported that about 18 pubs per week were closing across Britain on average—micropubs have been more of an industry bright spot. Unlike traditional pubs, which usually operate in large, detached, often even historical buildings, the micropub movement has seen small business owners opening tiny pubs (that are often more akin to American-style bars) in small storefronts on business-lined streets. The lower overhead and more personal touch has led a lot of British drinkers to rethink what their local pub can look like.

“Having been open for just over three years, we’re part of the new community of micropubs on the UK pub scene,” Paul Gray was quoted as saying, touching on the trend. “The Firkin Shed is about people coming together in a safe, happy environment with a friendly atmosphere and, of course, a decent pint.” He also stated, “We’re truly thrilled to be receiving this award. We know we have a great range of locally produced real cider, but to be recognized as the National Cider Pub of the Year is more than we ever imagined.”

So who knows, maybe that old Radio Shack or Toys R Us could be just a couple coats of paint away from being one of the best bars in the world?

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