Oldest patron relaunches Chorlton pub The Bowling Green. 

Landlord Mark Canny and centurion Arthur ‘Bunny’ Johnson raise a glass to celebrate.

When Arthur Johnson first started going to the pub, a pint was only less than £1, Fred Astaire was top of the charts and Sunderland had just won the league. Through 24 prime ministers and a covid pandemic, Arthur – known to his friends as ‘Bunny’ – has always remained loyal to his local.  

For the past 10 years, that local has been The Bowling Green in Chorlton, which has just reopened its doors for business  “Thank God” Bunny exclaimed as he was handed his first pint of pub-poured ale in months after being given the honour of opening the new outdoor seating area and declaring the pub back open for business.  

A great-grandfather and former Army tank driver, Bunny is a regular at the Chorlton pub where he has become something of a local celebrity.  

Stood alongside landlord Mark Canny, he applauded the hard work that had gone into reopening the pub: “There is no doubt about it, what he has done here is a wonderful thing, he has turned what was a bit of rubbish into something useful” he said. 

The car park at the pub has now been repurposed to allow for extra outdoor seating as well as a children’s area and additional seating has been installed alongside the edge of the bowling green.  

Arthur ‘Bunny’ Jackson declares the Bowling Green open for business.

Landlord Canny promised Bunny free beer for life when he turned 100 years old and he has now been enjoying free beer for four years.  

Bunny, who has been going to The Bowling Green for over a decade, enjoys his favourite tipple of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on the house. But he has been unable to cash in on his free drinks as the pub itself has been shut since November, so it seemed only fitting that Bunny would be the one to reopen it.  

The Bowling Green took the decision to stay closed and not serve drinks only with ‘sustainable meals’ during the winter, and instead, the team has been working hard to improve and expand the outdoor seating area in preparation for a potential summer reopening.  

Its outdoor capacity has now been expanded to 80 seats in order to comply with government Coronavirus regulations and to allow customers to return.  

The 12th of April marked the day they had been waiting for, as for the first time in months, beer gardens, shops, and hairdressers reopened in England. The country moved onto the next stage of the government’s roadmap out of Coronavirus restrictions, which allows for outdoor drinking and dining at pub gardens and al fresco restaurants to resume. 

Millions of Brits have been making the most of their newfound sense of freedom and enjoying a pint or two along the way. DW News reported many stayed up until midnight to have their first legal pint in months. 

The Bowling Green is back open for business.

Bowled Away 

This came as a relief to Canny, who has been the landlord at The Bowling Green since 2002.  “We were a bit nervous about reopening as we have all been out of work for nearly half the year, but thankfully the team really pulled together and the customers were very understanding of how busy we were all in all delighted to be back open & making people happy,” he said. 

While Canny is pleased to be back open, he has had his fair share of difficult customers and gained notoriety last year appearing on Channel 4’s show Four in a Bed, which sees B&B owners take it in turns to stay with one another, give feedback and then pay what they consider fair. Mark clashed with guests over the perceived noise of a mini-fridge in one of The Bowling Green’s six rooms. 

The Bowling Green featured on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed the full episode is available here.

His regular customers queued outside ahead of the reopening and they couldn’t care less about how noisy (allegedly) the fridges are. A real mix of young and old were waiting to have a drink at their favourite pub. It is clear that The Bowling Green really is a hub of the community and it says something when a war veteran reopens it, for a table of mothers to take their young babies there for probably their very first pub visit.  

It was not just the punters that were raring to go but also the staff. Charlotte Littler, 20, has been working at The Bowling Green for just over a year and explained: “Just being able to see people and do something useful helps give my life a bit of purpose, I have been on furlough and I am really grateful for all the support I have had from everyone at The Bowling Green, now I am just excited to actually get back to work.” 

Hospitality Hit Hard

Sadly not every pub will be able to open. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has estimated that only 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service. 

“Our sector has been devastated by COVID-19 and the lockdowns. It has been a year to forget for the Great British Pub. It is estimated that 2,000 pubs have been lost forever. 2.1 billion pints in beer sales have also been missed, wiping out £8.2 billion in trade value from the sector.”

Emma McClarkin, BBPA’s Chief Executive

Supermarket giant Tesco has also been encouraging people to head to their local pub with their post on Twitter going viral:

Local businessman and Greater Manchester night time economy advisor, Sacha Lord, has recently taken the government to court over the decision not to allow bars and restaurants to open indoors.  

Support Your Local

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the nation to “behave responsibly” as lockdown measures have eased and with al fresco likely to be the only option until May at the earliest, why not support the local hospitality industry? Pop down to The Bowling Green or check out some of Manchester’s other great venues that are now back open and are accepting walk-ins: 

  • Edinburgh Castle – The lovely bar in Ancoats from the group behind Cottonopolis will have spaces for open air seating and have developed a new al fresco menu. 
  • The Bay Horse Tavern – a modern take on a Victorian pub in the heart of the Northern Quarter they’ll have spaces held back each day for walk-ins, on a first come, first served basis.
  • The Wharf – The Castlefield pub has installed a new covering for its courtyard.

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