The Haymakers pub in Chesterton has reopened in the last couple of months and is now run by Individual Pubs and the Milton Brewery. I arranged to meet a group of friends there in late May. One (who clearly isn’t used to pub car parks) emailed back, ‘for anyone cycling, there is a good set of bike racks hidden round the back – the way to which is obvious only if you approach from the right-hand side of the pub. Took me a couple of visits to find those . . .’
What he meant was that in the car park, where I’d have looked to find somewhere to stick my bike anyway, round the back, two car parking spaces, which would probably have been parking for 4-6 customers at most, had been replaced with 10 Sheffield stands, well spaced. From the photo, you can see that when I turned up, there were already plenty of customers taking advantage of them. This is effectively almost a four-fold increase in ‘customer parking’.
This is a vast change compared to many of the other pubs a similar distance from the city centre, where you end up either chaining your bike to random things or just leaning it against the car park wall locked to itself and hoping it will be OK. I ended up having a chat with the landlady, and complimented her on the excellent customer parking, and thought I might as well email her a few questions.
Q) You installed cycle parking as you thought it more appropriate for a pub than car parking?
A) Yes, Cambridge is a cycling town; having the security of large numbers of bike racks mean it’s easy to stop in for one or several – and not have to worry about theft (which unfortunately tends to go hand in hand with a large cycling population). The other thing of course is that it discourages drink-driving. As someone who grew up in a rural part of Australia where drink-driving is a real problem, I feel very strongly about the need for an alternative.
Q) Had you a vague feeling that many of your customers might work in the city, but live beyond the Haymakers and thus find it convenient to call in on their way home from work?
A) A number of people in the Chesterton area work elsewhere in Cambridge and cycle to and fro. We tend to get quite busy with the after-work crowd and much of the feedback we have had is from people who have said they were just cycling past after work and saw that we had re-opened. Being able to secure your bike means you can stop in and not worry about theft, or having to ‘just have one’.
Q) Are you finding that the cycle parking is well-used?
A) Very well-used. Since we last spoke we’ve taken out another two parking spaces and installed another half a dozen racks because even with all the space we had, over the weekends we were running out of space. It’s important to keep a few parking spaces. Sometimes we get some groups in for business lunches, or there is a designated driver, people bringing elderly parents for a meal and so forth. But I feel we have the right balance, we’ve not had anyone yet claim there wasn’t anywhere for them to park!
Q) Do you think this has helped your business?
A) Well so far, most of the reviews that I’ve read online, sites like Tripadvisor, Pints and Pubs and so forth, have mentioned the cycle racks in glowing terms so I must assume so!
The Haymakers now seems to have about 18 Sheffield stands. Is this something other pubs a similar distance from the city centre, or slightly further afield, perhaps in the ‘necklace villages’, should take note of? I’ve been to many with a reasonable number of car parking spaces but nowhere to properly chain up my bike. I challenge some of them, in the light of the Haymakers’ experience, to see if they can get more people in buying food and drink, if they provide some proper customer parking. In these times when pubs face many challenges to their profitability, surely attracting more customers has to be a good thing?