Beer and pub column

A York pub that suddenly closed earlier this year is reopening with a new name, new drinks and completely new approach.

Sociale has been created in what was previously the Nag's Head in Micklegate.

It opened to its first customers on Thursday night, with a soft launch, and will open fully to the public next Thursday (June 2).

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John McClure, manager at The Red Lion in Merchantgate, is the man behind the business.

Backed by York pub entrepreneur Pete Pendlebury, he has taken on the lease from Enterprise Inns but he is completely free of tie.

He and his team have gutted the old Nag's Head, which closed in January, and created a much brighter and imaginative venue.

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John McClure in Sociale

It fits in with broader attempts to improve Micklegate, he says, moving away from the times when it was pigeon-holed as a drinkers' run. Indeed the empty building next door is being redeveloped at the same time, to become an independent restaurant called Skosh.

Back in the bar, John says the days of trebles for spirits promotions, aimed at drinkers drinking for drinking's sake, are gone.

Instead, he says, there will be a focus on top-quality beer, a relaxed atmosphere, and light bites such as sandwiches and toasties.

"It will be a place to come for a nice drink and will be a chilled-out venue, rather than somewhere big groups come."

Its closest comparable venues, says John, are The Fossgate Social in York and Major Tom's Social in Harrogate (featured here last year).

John has freedom to source the beers he wants, a rare luxury for Enterprise Inns tenants, and he says he is determined to obtain unusual and appealing beers from top brewers.

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The bar will launch with Rudgate's Jorvik Blonde, Wild Beer's Sour Dough, Beavertown's Neck Oil, Redwell Steam Lager and Hiver. 

The bottled range includes options from Odell, First Chop and Siren.

The bar itself remains where it was, but everything around it has also changed.

Tables and seats have been installed in the front room, where once it was standing only. The large TVs have gone, replaced with artwork. And the garden is in the process of being redeveloped.

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Above and below: Inside the refurbished building

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For John, this marks a bold and significant moment, the dawn of the first business he can fully call his own.

"It's nice," he says. "It has a completely different feel to the Red Lion but I'm going to try to keep a nice welcoming feel to it.

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"We do not want people coming in here only to get blind drunk. We want to get away from that. Micklegate is changing and we want to be on the side of local businesses.

"We have talked to people on the street and they are looking for something new, and trying to revive the area."

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Above and below: Some of the non-beer drinks available

York Press:

For historians, the demise of the Nag's Head is noteworthy but not necessarily sad. Records of it date back 244 years to 1772, but few will miss what it had become in recent years, a drinking den that appealed largely to those out to drink in great quantity rather than great quality.

Hopefully Sociale can thrive in its place.