Friday afternoon. I’m walking with a bag of chips towards Castle Ditch Lane and I see three people picketing the Lewes Arms. They are wearing anti-Greene King badges. I stop to chat. I know a couple of them. They’ve been standing there a while, they say. From outside, the pub looks virtually empty. They’ve turned a couple away, who would otherwise have gone in, they tell me. You can see such a group out there every day, lunchtime and evenings, at peak hours. The boycott is reaching its crucial stage. The picket-liners are determined to continue with their protest. They are not going to go away. They fear that if they do, the pub will get a new clientele, that it will thrive without them, and without Harveys Best on draught. It’s cold. I offer each one a chip, which they gratefully accept.
A man comes out, has a go. “You weren’t there when the Black Horse stopped serving Harveys. Or the Royal Oak. Or the Lamb,” he says. “Or any of the Seaford pubs.”
“But they weren’t our local pub. We are protesting because we want to drink our local beer in our local pub.” As the argument continues I wonder what plans Greene King have for the Lewes Arms. They are clearly making a financial loss, and will continue to do so while the pub’s former regulars are so active. Will they turn it into a restaurant? Will they divide it up and sell it off as flats? Did they manipulate this situation into being, to maximise their profits?
It’s sad. I used to love the Lewes Arms. There are times when no other pub will do; when no other pub fits my mood. Unfulfillable Lewes Arms moments.
The man goes away, agreeing to disagree. It’s cold out here, I’ve got to move on. As I leave, I notice that the hanging baskets outside the pub, once little explosions of colour, haven’t been watered for weeks. The plants have all died. Enjoy the week.