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24 September 2014

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A Leeds institution under threat?
A view of Whitelocks from the yard
Could Leeds' oldest pub, the venerable Whitelocks, be about to undergo an image change?

A leaked briefing document written by Spirit Group, the pub's owners, has got local beer drinkers worried.

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The Whitelock's first licence was granted in 1715.

To find Whitelocks, look for Turk's Head Yard off Briggate. The entrance is near to Marks and Spencers.

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Campaigners are concerned that the internal document describing two imaginary ideal customers - Mick and Ruth - for a 'city day pub' is aimed at changing Whitelocks.

Mick is pictured as a BMW-driving 30-something and Ruth's favourite (imagined) tipple is wine.

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Although the Spirit Group has denied any plans to change the hidden gem in Turk's Head Yard, off Briggate, the city's drinkers are worried.

Leeds CAMRA spokesman Tony Jenkins says: "CAMRA are trying to get a meeting with Spirit to clarify the situation.

"Whitelocks is definitely listed and is on Camra's national inventory as a pub of special merit.

"No one is denying a lick of paint could spruce it up and perhaps disabled access could be improved but anything over and above this could be a disaster if it changes the pub significantly."

Despite a booming cafe and club culture Leeds city centre has seen the loss of several traditional real ale pubs including the City of Mabgate and the Whip.

The Whitelocks pub has been largely untouched since its Victorian heyday and is seen as a city centre haven for real ale. Past generations of pub-goers would still be able recognise the compact interior with its dark wood and engraved glass.

Tony Jenkins is ready to keep it that way: "The Whip was destroyed and I wouldn't be suprised if changes were tried at Whitelocks. But CAMRA are going to try and stop it."

From News:
13/08/04 - Sarah joins fight for Whitelocks

Have your say: Are pubs like Whitelocks old-fashioned? Or should traditional bars be savoured?

The Whitelocks was one of the first pubs I had a drink in, probably Christmas eve 1963, I was 16. My wife and I did a lot of our courting there. I spend most Saturday afternoons during the sixties, and early seventies drinking there, eating the cornish pasties and roast beef sandwiches. I remember the hams hanging over the bar (somebody stole one once), the outside gents. Only ladies went upstairs to the toilets.

I left Yorkshire in 1975 to live and work in Stroud, but I try to get back at least a couple of time a year. I always try to have a least a couple of pints in the Locks. For me its not the same as it was. But I would hate to see it turned into a corporate pub. What a shame!
Mick Kirby

There are a wide variety of styles of pubs in Leeds, enough to satisfy everyone's taste. I can see no reason why older pubs (especially the oldest) should be restyled. Not everyone wants to drink in the window of an aluminium / chrome minimalist gold fish tank.

Whitelocks is an oasis is a bustling city. Whitelocks is one of few traditional pubs left in the city of Leeds if not the country and is therefore an asset and should be protected. I enjoy the atmosphere and traditional food served at Whitelocks and I know that many of my colleagues who are entertaining clients, take their visitors to Whitelocks to experience a traditional English pub. Why the Spirit Group want to change what is already a successful venue I can only guess at, it reminds me of the attitude of developers in Leeds in the early 60's when quaint cottages were knocked down and replaced with modern housing, the old cottages would have been highly valued today. Don't let the Spirit Group ruin Whitelocks!

What exactly do Spirit want to change here, and why? Whitelocks is a wonderful old pub selling 8 well-kept real ales, and good wholesome traditional English food. It also has a respectable wine list. It's always full, and I can't believe they're not making money. If it needs anything at all it's a lick of paint or varnish where appropriate. It's an important part of the city's heritage, and I wish that, just for once, the pub group would respect this.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Mike Roebuck

Whitelocks should be made a listed building IMMEDIATELY to try to protect its unique features. Leeds needs yet another wine bar about as much as it needs Peter Ridsdale back at Elland Road.

It should be a listed building together with listed interior making it a criminal offence to change it in any way. Leave it alone.
Peter Hill, Leeds

Whitelocks is a cultural landmark, the spirit of a bygone era. I'm all for the 24 hour city, and the cafe/bar society that's currently being promoted in Leeds, but let us also have the foresight to preserve the best of the old, and Whitelocks is undoubtedly that. Don't change it!

The proposed changes for Whitlocks are an outrage. For generations this place has provided a welcome oasis for folk who appreciate a decent conversation to accompany their traditional Yorkshire pudding, washed down with a fine ale. Most people go to Whitelocks because of this characteristic and to change this would be sacrilege. Whitelocks has a proud heritage that should be preserved not stripped bare in the name of modernity. There are an abundance of bars in Leeds that offer nachos and wine with a soulless interior to match the atmosphere. Establishments such as Whitelocks offer a welcome reprieve from such places. Whitelocks does a roaring trade, which suggests to me that many people appreciate what it offers so why change it? If it 'aint broken don't fix it!
Louise, 26

I've conversed with over 20 friends and colleagues now and not one, not a single ale-drinking or alcopop guzzling one has given the slightest indication of this being a good move from the cities oldest pub (unless you include the Bingley Arms). It's a disgrace and these people should not be allowed to get their hands on such jewels. It will be packed with Ben Sherman wearing Wayne Rooney lookalikes in no time.
Mark Adcock, Leeds

My name is Chris Whitelock and I live in Leeds. I am horrified to hear that there maybe changes to Whitelocks pub... I know that My great uncle Percy run the pub from 1901 and my grandparents received a wedding present from him. This is Leeds history SAVE OUR PUB!

I started drinking in Whitelocks in the late seventies and since then nothing has changed - this is what's great about it. Modern life is becoming increasingly bland and homogenised so why do Spirit want to foist their corporate regime on this national treasure with their trendy new menu. They have taken off all the favourites from the old menu and replaced them with the kind of bar food that you can get anywhere.
Whitelocks is the only pub in Leeds that still does traditional British fayre; the Yorkshire puddings and Sunday roasts are legendary. All their food is homemade and not brought in from somewhere else to be assembled on the premises, as happens in other chain pubs. The powers that be at Spirit must be blind if they can't see that the changes that have been proposed will do irreparable harm to the reputation and customer base of Whitelocks. It could sound the death knell of this famous old pub - and that would be a tragedy. If the people of Leeds want trendy bars and restaurants they have a multitude to choose from elsewhere in the city centre. Whitelocks is unique so let's keep it that way.
Dave Harris - Beeston

I discovered this little characteristic gem 'Whitelocks' some years ago now and have had many a happy times, meeting and chatting with friends with the absence of loud music. I've promoted it on many occassions, as i'm sure many others have. All walks of people enjoy drinking, tasting some of the finest ales. The staff are fantastic, the regulars are kind and friendly and not forgetting the finest ales. It takes a long time for a pub to become a legend, don't spoil it for everyone else, just because it doesn't fit into the norm. Thats whats great about Whitelocks, it has too much history, don't wipe it out!
RP - Leeds

Whitelocks is a rare commodity in a city that is already saturated with bland soulless bars and fake 'character' pseudo-taverns. Whitelocks is always busy, in fact heaving with regulars and occasional visitors alike. Its successful combination of unique atmosphere, great food, well-kept beer, friendly staff and unrivalled service makes this traditional public house famous, attracting punters from throughout Yorkshire, and the UK, and beyond. To lose Whitelocks would be a disaster.
Ben - Leeds

You ask anybody within the 30 - 85 age group which is the most traditional and admirable pubs in Leeds? They will proably mention the Palace, Duck and Drake, Victoria etc. but one thing is for certain - they will always mention Whitelocks! The guest beers, Roast Beefs, customers from all age groups, location (even though I live in Bramley!),and of course the wonderful staff make this pub unique! My friends recently visited from London, Jersey, Manchester, Belgium and United States - and what did they enjoy most about the "do" - the fact is that they visited a traditional English Pub which hadn't been tampered with for over a century, that's what they'll always remember - don't change Whitelocks, Spirit Group Managers, or else..!
RJE - Age 30

The Whitelocks is a friendly, relaxed, no-nosense, old-fashioned pub with good beers and no music that you have to shout over. But mainly, it's a place that people love, and it has a special place in Britain's history. I would appeal to Spirit Group, please act with heart and leave
Whitelocks as it is.

Mark from Leeds

I was born and grew up in Leeds and spent many happy hours in the Whitelocks. I have lived in Australia for 30 years and when I return to Leeds the Whitelocks is one of the first places myself and my family visit, for one simple reason, it is original. You can find a plastic replica anywhere in the world, please don't mess with perfection.
Paul Blakeborough, Fremantle, Western Australia

My mother grew up in Leeds and it still remains her favorite place on earth. We all reside in Canada now, but annually return to Leeds and return to her roots. "Whitelocks" pub is a traditional visit for our family. The charming mystic and ghostly presence is a symbol of English traditions and days gone by. We would be heartbroken if the pub was to be changed in any way. Whitelocks is not about being trendy or modern, it's about remembering good times and reliving them time and again.
Amy M Taylor, Ontario, Canada

Have I got this right? Spirit Group has on it's hands a real "Olde Worlde" pub and plans to replace it with a fake "Olde Worlde" pub!
If that's the case why bother buying Whitelocks?Corporate branded pubs are everywhere. Deface one of those.

Whitelocks is a busy place each day of the week, especially in summer, and it charges the going rate (or more?) for its excellent beers, so the owners can't really complain that it's not profitable, surely? Ruining a place like this, in the way the Whip went, would be and extreme form of greed on the owner's part, and the resultant pub would have to be boycotted at all costs. There are few enough decent real ale pubs in Leeds as it is. Whatever next? A McDonald's on the Harry Ramsden's site?

My dad used to drink real ale and eat pie and peas in Whitelocks when he was a student. He was overjoyed nothing had changed when he revisited it. It doesn’t need to change; it makes enough money and is no threat to the big pub chains, who buy their beer at huge discounts anyway. If Spirit changes it I shall avoid all of their “outlets” in the future, including the Junction in Otley, which they and Punch have been trying to ruin for years.
Helen, Otley

Have not long returned to Cornwall, where I was born, after almost 20 years living in Leeds. Leeds has some cracking town pubs such as The Wrens, The Victoria, the "Scarborough Taps" and of course Whitelocks. In a city that is becoming over run by "theme pubs" and trendy watering holes these stand out as bastions of civilised traditional drinking. I am appalled that someone would want to "muck around" with the gem that is Whitelocks. What an awful thought....... Come on CAMRA...don't let them do it !!!
Eugene Morice, Penzance, Cornwall (Leeds: 1985 - 2003)

Why are these big pub companies all so set on changing lovely, interesting, unique pubs into cafe bars? There are plenty of bland, modern cafe bars already. There is a market for old, unique pubs with real ale. If it aint broke, don't fix it.
Kate, Leeds (female 30-something real ale drinker)

SAVE WHITELOCKS PUB! Whitelocks may be in danger of becoming a homogenised pub, fitted out in a standard style, in keeping with some of the Spirit Group's other pubs. It would be a real mistake to lose the original 'genuine' pub feel and character it has at the moment. The danger is that it will be re-fitted and will end up looking like a theme pub, trying to imitate itself in past times. The pub is an oasis in the bustling city. A genuine, straightforward, pub. Its theme is that of an english pub. The decor is of a pub. The yard is a pub beer garden. This is a good look! It works. Whenever I visit leeds, I take them to Whitelocks BECAUSE IT IS UNIQUE. Please don't spoil it, there are enough standardised, easily categorised, cliche'd bars already.
Andrew, Newcastle (from Leeds)

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