I was going to save the “Great Spoons Queue Debate”  for my Bath post, but something happened in Cheltenham yesterday that wound me up that puts the Spoons issue into context.


The King of Wessex is a newish Spoons built alongside the “entertainment complex” for the town – Odeon, Nandos, the Bath Bath Store.

And it’s now the first Spoons, or any pub, that I’ve seen implement a rope barrier system for queuing at the bar.  Unless you know better. The gentleman in front of me was a beer ticker; c.900 Spoons visited and he’d never seen the like.


It meant that bar staff only had to look at one person to know who was being served next, rather than desperately asking “Right, who’s next ?”.

I wrote about unofficial queuing in the Parcel Yard last month, when staff politely told customers (mainly tourists) to stop queuing and stand at the bar.

Some of you (BRAPA in particular) will no doubt be shaking with rage at the latest Spoons attempt to make themselves a non-pub.  There’ll be offering tasters next…

I can’t get worked up about it in a Spoons or Ember or similar family diner with a big bar, but I think you’re safe in your local Sam Smiths.

Attempting to get served

You do tend to get efficient service in your local Sam’s though, with acknowledgement at the bar and getting served in turn.  They might have the hump with Humph but they don’t take it out on their customers.

Yesterday I was ignored at the bar, and it wasn’t a unique experience.  I’ll anonymise this edge-of-Cotswolds mews local, though no doubt Scott has already identified it.

With six blokes standing at the small circular bar, I found the one gap and got my change ready for a half of Otter.  I tried to make made eye contact with the barmaid, who was finishing off a round of drinks.  I may be ugly but I’m not hard to spot in my “I’M NOT BRAPA” T-shirt, but I didn’t get any recognition.  And as you know, waving fivers, banging change or coughing loudly are pub sins.

Gin poured, the young lady came round from the bar to pick up some glasses from tables. “Hello” I offered as a way of establishing contact. Nothing.  Back round the bar she turned immediately to a couple who’d just walked in.  “Excuse me“, I said. “I think I was next“.

Ducking to avoid my attention

I might as well have been invisible.  Perhaps I am.  Eventually another member of staff came by and a friendly local pointed at me to indicate I’d been waiting a while.

It’s not the wait itself (a good 5 minutes, but my time’s my own); it’s the lack of acknowledgement that gets my goat.  Even a nod or eye contact would do the trick.

Perhaps Disney-style ropes and queues out into the street are the answer.





      1. The one right next to the Ouse Bridge which appears on the news every time the river floods.


      2. I didn’t know this either, and I’ve been going to Kings Arms on and off (mainly off due to lack of cask) since 1997.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It really is a privilege to have the great Si commenting on my blog. Think I walked past it on the way to Falcon Tap last month and it looked very basic.


  1. Actually, at busy times, there’s a lot to be said for the Post Office-style queue in Spoons. It means everyone gets served in turn, it stops pillocks standing at the bar blocking the view of the pumps, and it means you’ll never get stuck behind the person ordering coffee! But, as you say, it does underline their essential non-pub-ness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you are in a queue and the person in front of you wants four coffee’s you will still have to wait an age while they are being served.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, because there’s one queue for multiple serving points, like in a Post Office. So even if one barperson is held up by serving coffees, you’ll still get the next one that becomes free.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Is this getting more frequent for you? I’ve seen this a few times but always chalked it up to the I’m a tourist sign on my forehead. It would be sad I think if this type of bad service led to lines… I like the polite method you all have used for years. Very sociable in my eyes.


    1. I can’t say it’s a frequent occurrence; half a dozen times a year (1% of visits). I anonymised this one as I don’t want to criticise a young person on a long shift who at not have seen me, hard though that is to believe. It’s also the case there was an unfinished pint on the bar she might have thought was mine, but good bar staff will always check if you’ve been served.


  3. When it comes to queueing in pubs I really don’t know where I stand (boom tish!). Seeing people arrive at the bar after me but get served before me, has really annoyed me. Queueing should at least mean everyone gets served in turn. But is that a substitute for proper bar training? And does it take away the right of a bar person to choose who they want to serve next – e.g. ignore the money-waving prat, give preferential treatment to a regular etc

    But a rope barrier?!!

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – all it takes is acknowledgment so you know you’re not invisible.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s not unusual to have queuing barriers. A lot of the larger WMC’s had barriers (not in the concert room/best room), substantial ones too to prevent queue jumping and efficient service at busy times, e.g. 12 o’clock on Sunday when everyone piles in bang on the dot and wants a pint. Harehills WMC springs to mind, although I don’t know if they are still there, I haven’t been in for years. There were about four lines with a member of staff dedicated to serving each line.

    Southstand Bar at Headingley has crash barrier style queuing lanes (at least 6) as well – one person to take your order, one to take money and the third to present your drinks which are poured two dozen at once. Tetley’s or Carlsberg, one pint or two pint pot – it looks like shit, it tastes like shit and it is shit, but they sell gallons of it every game. RL games that is, obviously no one goes to watch RU shite.


  5. If going in Spoons early the case for multiple serving points in some is not the case,there is sometimes one person serving so still a wait for people ordering coffee,and in the Berkeley in Bristol there was no one serving,i took a long walk to the toilets and back,the same people were still at the bar and shouting out for someone to serve them.
    Please let me know Peter when you are in a Spoons i will join your perfect queue with loads of bar staff serving.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m shaking with rage as predicted. I cannot get onboard with queuing in pubs being acceptable under any circumstances.

    To me, it’s all about the uniqueness of pub culture and tradition, to an outsider it must seem weird that you stand side by side and staff have to try n work out who’s next (with help n honesty of the customers) but think of the conversations struck up with strangers over the years, who then might become friends etc. In an age when actually social interaction is getting rarer (am thinking things like self service checkouts) , don’t let us lose this too.

    It’d be enough to make me consider boycotting Spoons if they made it a ‘thing’ in their hit & miss outlets, well if it wasn’t for the BRAPA ‘got to tick it off’ factor!


    1. But are Spoons really pubs in the conventional sense of the word anyway? And arguably the smartphone app subverts the usual order-at-the-bar model even more.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The easy way to deal with the issue of staff taking ages to make coffee is to ban coffee.

      The method of standing at the bar is not unique to a pub, it is behaviour I expect at a market stall also. Perhaps such English traditions are becoming outdated. If they are, then so am I.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To clarify, I have no issue with coffee in its rightful place, which is cafe or pointless after pudding serving in a posh restaurant. I do have an issue with over complicated coffee being served in a supposed public house.

        I have two ground ticks lined up in the next fortnight, one of which I am embarrassed to still require. New Craven Park is not one of them, it pains me to say. When Assem Allam drove me out of home games, at no point did I consider that, fanciful Glanford Park clone in Melton aside, there would be a ground tick missed. Allams Out.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Coffee should be served through the food ordering system, not prepared while-you-wait by the bar staff. Most other pubs recognise this

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you were very patient in the pub.
    Five minutes is at the outer limit of mine unless the place is rammed and short-staffed.
    I then either leave or if I’m sufficiently pissed enough start singing very loudly the Irish tenor Josef Locke’s Here My Song,Violetta ”
    Usually by the time I’ve reached ” come to me,in my gondola – waiting on the old lagoon ” those behind the bar have got the message,often with a terrified look in their eyes.
    I then either get served or chucked out.
    Once,unbelievably,an old boy at the other end of the bar knew the words and thinking there was a singsong joined in.
    Useless folderol I know but it’s much better than getting angry.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Re: coffee in pubs – one of my local ‘Spoons has a dedicated area for “cold drinks only” to ensure that those who just want a pint aren’t held up by long coffee or food orders. It seems to work pretty well.

    Liked by 1 person

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