THE MAN who has been in charge of Bromsgrove’s Hop Pole Inn for the last five years has waved goodbye to the popular pub.
Pete Hedges, former manager and frontman of renowned local band, Skabucks, breathed new life into the venue in 2010 when he was left two pubs.
After leasing the business from landlords, Punch Taverns, Pete transformed it from a ‘stale’ venue to a thriving, vibrant, free live music sensation.
“Punch has been okay in most ways but in some ways I feel they’re spoiling what is a business that should be run by the licensee, not by the pub company.
“A licensee should choose how he wants to run it and if it was left like that, the pub trade would be as it was 30 years ago, thriving with community people and jobs for the youngsters.
“That’s been killed by these big pub companies.”
He said the exceptional free live music venue achieved a high turnover, yet made no profit to invest back into the business.
Pete said the business managed to keep itself alive until Bromsgrove Council raised the business rates by some 40 per cent.
He said: “There was no way on this earth I was going to be able to make that extra amount of money.”
From high profile established bands from the underground and commercial scenes to rising young stars, the Hop Pole has welcomed a spectrum of talents through its doors.
The Hop Pole has built a notorious reputation as a music venue that has embraced a spectrum of genres from ska, punk, rock and reggae to dub, jazz, blues and more.
Pete said: “I feel it’s the only real pub left in Bromsgrove – one that doesn’t cater for food or children.
“It caters for someone who wants to just enjoy a really good quality cider or beer and really good quality live music for nothing.”
Pete has also utilised the venue as a creative platform for young people – some even as young as seven – and teenagers who have been using it to practice in with jazz choirs or perform there with bands for friends and family at Christmas.
So from keen amateurs to established musicians, Pete has ushered them all through the doors, including good friend and Specials bassist, Sir Horace Panter.
“He’s been a very good supporter of the Hop Pole, bringing along his Blues band, ‘Blues to Go’ and other superb musicians from The Move, Yellow, UB40, Ocean Colour Scene, Duran Duran etc. Ruby Turner’s sung here, Tony Christie’s done one song with a band here after a gig at Artrix.
“Tony, even though he’s come into his latter years, still wanted to play somewhere like this and to give joy and laughter and fun and music to the local people of Bromsgrove.
“I’m hoping the people taking over from me will carry that on for a decent amount of years.
“I’ll be behind them as much as they ask me and hopefully it will carry on, but you know, we’ll see.”
Skabucks had their first ever gig at the Hop Pole nine years ago and gave their last show at the venue with Pete last Sunday night. A bitter-sweet night and the end of an era as they look forward to horizons new.
To see the filmed interview and live footage of last Sunday’s gig, please visit: www.bromsgrovestandard.co.uk
Right to reply…..
IN RESPONSE to comments made about the Hop Pole and Peter Hedges’ reasons for leaving, a spokesperson for Punch Taverns said the firm was a leading UK pub company, with more than 3,500 leased and tenanted pubs nationwide, adding it provided a wide range of support tools designed to help tenants grow a sustainable pub business.
“We lease out our pubs for tenants to run their own business with complete autonomy.
“The Hop Pole, Bromsgrove has been operating under the terms of a long-term lease agreement since 2010, our tenant has operated their own pub business with minimal input required from Punch.”
She added they had a positive working relationship with the tenant during his time there.
A Bromsgrove District Council spokesperson said: “Business rates are set by the Government but there are some discretionary grants that are available which local firms can come and see us about.”