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Published on March 4, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour

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A work in progress

There hardly a month goes by and a new pub appears on the horizon – sometimes two or three. Alastair Gilmour drops in on a couple of them

FRONT STREET TAP HOUSE, MONKSEATON

Location is everything, they say, and a placing a microbub in the midst of a parade of shops isn’t a bad place to be. The mix of businesses means footfall is guaranteed for a start.

Next door to Front Street Tap House in Monkseaton, Tyne & Wear, is a betting shop; a fish-and-chip shop is a few doors down, a Chinese takeaway is round the corner, the local Metro station is barely 100 metres away and you can call into a newsagent on the way to the pub (which is opposite the Monkseaton Arms). What more would anybody want?

James Benson opened Front Street Tap House on December 22, 2018, admittedly in a rush to catch some Christmas trade. There were still things to do to the former florist’s shop and several weeks later, it remains a work in progress. James’ restlessly progressive nature suggests that situation won’t change – there will always be something changing.

“I’ve just been rearranging the seating and put a new ‘breakfast bar’ in at the window,” he says. “I need to put down some skateboards where the skirting should be and along the bottom of the bar.

“It’s all going well with lots of support from locals and returning customers. I have to say that Jon Sibley at The Town Mouse in Newcastle has been a wonderful help with his advice and telling people in his pub all about us. “Sean Hardy, the assistant brewer at Cullercoats Brewery has also been a great help, looking out for premises on his delivery rounds – in fact Cullercoats helped out right from the start giving us branded glasses and lending handpulls until we got organised and bought our own.

“I thought of my own business because I got fed up with being made redundant (he and his wife Rachael lost their jobs six times in ten years).

“I looked at a lot of micropubs and wanted to be different with things like lighting. I’m also massively into my music so the background music had to be right.”

The Tap House specialises in rum and offers a good range of gins, while beers on the bar are mainly from the North East and Yorkshire (James is original from Leeds), which include ever-changing styles from Almasty, Two By Two, McColl’s, Turning Point, Totally Brewed and Donzoko.

“Shuggy Boat Blonde is our reference point beer, our staple on cask or keg,” says James. “We’re already talking about collaborating on a house beer.

“I’ve been doing 70-hour weeks even though we’re closed on a Monday. I’m doing it all by myself at the moment, cleaning toilets, emails, ordering, doing the accounts and costings as I’m still trying to find my feet. But my family have also been a great help. It might sound funny but the busier we get the more time I’ll be able to take off – it’ll mean I’ve had to take on staff.”

Slightly controversially, the bar is “card-only” which the vast majority of customers are OK with but causes one or two grumblings. James reckons it’s the way society is moving, like in Australia and Sweden which is a virtually cash-free economy.

There’s still a lot to do – with full disabled access a priority on the ‘phase two’ list (and the flooring could do with a lick of paint) – but it’s working and it’s progressing. It would appear 70-hour weeks will soon decrease.

Front Street Tap House, Cauldwell Lane (Front Street), Monkseaton, Tyne & Wear NE25 8AQ.


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Alastair Gilmour



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