Tavern to be shut up after stumps

Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Lord's:For years it has been as much a feature for many fans of attending a match at Lord's Cricket Ground as the Pavilion, the slope on the pitch and the Father Time weathervane.

But this season spectators wanting to reflect after a day's international play in the Lord's Tavern pub will, for the most part, have to drink somewhere else.

The Tavern, which is next to the main Grace Gates entrance at Lord's has, because of its closeness to the famous north-west London venue, been the favoured watering hole of many a cricket lover as well as former and even, occasionally, current players.

But the pub has frequently become so packed with post-play drinkers, some it must be said well into their 'second innings', that customers have spilled out on to the adjoining St John's Wood Road.

This has alarmed local residents, in an area that contains some of London's most expensive properties, to such an extent that Lord's owners, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) have decided that the Tavern will no longer be open for post-match drinking on several major match days this season.

In a statement MCC said it would, on those specific occasions, be used instead for serving breakfasts, lunches and dinners only.

However, those fearful that, especially with the Australians over for an Ashes series, that visiting fans would not know where to go for a reviving beer or two can relax.

MCC said it intended to improve the post-match bar in the Harris Garden (behind the Allen Stand next to the Pavilion) as well as introducing, for what was tantalisingly described as a "limited post-match period", a public bar in the Tavern Banqueting Suite which overlooks the Tavern itself.

MCC deputy chief executive, David Batts said Monday: "Our new policy - which we're introducing on a trial basis - reflects the importance we attach to local residents' views.

"Although the problems have been infrequent, we readily accept that they have been intensely annoying for a small number of our neighbours."

MCC members, their guests and anyone else fortunate enough to gain access to the Lord's Pavilion can still enjoy a drink within the ground's showpiece building - provided of course that any gentlemen entering the 'holy of holies' are wearing a jacket and tie or, if a lady, they are "suitably dressed."

But the ready availability of alcohol within the Pavilion has not, over the years, prevented a stream of MCC members, some with cheeks as bright as the orange and yellow stripes on their distinctive club ties, from turning up at the Tavern.

The Tavern will be shut after stumps following the July 2 One-day triangular series final, the separate NatWest Challenge One-dayer on July 10 as well as after every day of the first Test against Australia starting on July 21 and the end of the domestic C and G Trophy One-day final on September 3.

However, Bangladesh's first Test in England, commencing May 21, is one of the other matches unaffected by the Tavern's new opening hours.

But given Bangladesh are not a big draw in themselves and that the sale of alcohol is banned in the Islamic country, it is easy to see why officials are not anticipating huge numbers of customers during this particular match.

Meanwhile MCC's decision not to create an additional public bar at the Nursery End, opposite the Pavilion, following talks with London's Metropolitan Police will come as no surprise to those familar with the recent history of the 'home of cricket'.

When, in 1991, the late Denis Compton opened the stands at the rebuilt Nursery End bearing his name and that of his former Middlesex and England batting partner Bill Edrich, he was heard to remark: "They've named a stand after me and Bill and there isn't one bar in it."

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