Pubs of the Year & Season

Pub of the Year 2020

We are delighted to announce that The Slip Inn, on Clementhorpe is the York Branch Pub of the Year for 2020. The pub remains closed as layout does not allow for safe social distancing. We look forward to presenting the award when they open.

Paul Crossman, landlord and chair of Campaign for Pubs, gave us his response to the award:

2020 has turned out to be a strange and very difficult year in so many ways. Most of us have never experienced a time like it, and this very much includes the pub world. We were among the very first businesses to close, and will inevitably be among the last to reopen, something which is especially true for small community-orientated pubs like our own.

While essential workers have toiled to keep our nation fed, functioning and as safe as possible, the employees of tens of thousand of pubs have by necessity become “essential non-workers”, furloughed en-masse as part of an effort to salvage as much of the hospitality industry as possible for the future. The kind of close social experience that is our true stock-in-trade has been rendered temporarily, tragically, toxic, as we have all collectively found ourselves with no choice but to suppress our natural, normally very healthy, social instinct to gather and mingle.

So it would seem, on the face of it, a strange and perhaps frustrating year for The Slip Inn to find itself honoured with the award of York CAMRA’s Pub of the Year.

Yet in time-honoured tradition we have chosen instead to look on the bright side.

At a time when pubs are absent, and the heart of every pub-lover grows fonder as a result, it is a genuine honour for us to be held up as something of a local torchbearer for all those pubs being so missed.

Rather than dwelling on what we cannot do at present we are choosing to look forward to the time that we can play our crucial part in restoring the spirits of our community, as soon as our doors can be safely reopened.

At a time when so many less fortunate pubs face a completely uncertain future due to being saddled with high rents and harsh trading terms imposed by unsympathetic owners, we are thankful that our future is at least ensured, because we have the security of true independence.

The Slip Inn exists in its current form as a result of a leap of faith by myself and my wonderful business partner Jon Farrow. Each backed by our long-suffering and understanding families we took the calculated risk of buying the freehold of the pub back in 2008. Jon put in cash for a deposit, I put the family home up as security.

We took on the actual running of the pub in February 2010, which means that this year has a special significance, being the pub’s tenth anniversary as a fully independent free house.

Having control as freeholders was crucial. Genuine traditional free house pubs are a rare commodity in the UK pub scene nowadays, and especially so in York, where pub ownership is still very much dominated by the large property and brewing companies. For well over a decade now, traditional suburban community pubs, exactly like The Slip Inn have been neglected by such companies, who have systematically burdened their hard-pressed tenant licensees with high rents, punitive lease terms and overpriced but fatally limited “tied” supply lists offering predominantly bland ubiquitous national beer brands. There is generally a limit of endurance that will be reached under such an arrangement beyond which a pub will often be unceremoniously shunted onto the company’s “disposal” list, and generally sold off for the quickest, most convenient (and preferably of course lucrative) return possible. Very often this will be to somebody looking to make a quick return themselves through redevelopment as housing, or for an alternative commercial use. Either way, the pub itself will be gone forever.

We were only able to actually make an offer for The Slip Inn due to it being designated just such an unwanted disposal site. Thankfully, and somewhat to our surprise, that offer was accepted. This makes it one of the few very lucky pubs that “got away”, a pub given a second chance at life hugely against the odds, right in the middle of a cataclysmic period for pubs which continues to this day, and which has so far seen the UK lose a quarter of all its pubs, since the year 2000. Especially hard hit have been those just like The Slip Inn, smaller suburban pubs, purpose-built to sustain ordinary communities by providing a beating social heart.

Freed from the shackles of a tied ownership we could see the potential of The Slip Inn, and immediately set about adding hand pulls to the bar and sourcing a good quality range of local cask ales, whilst also embarking on a very rapid refurbishment of the property in order to sympathetically increase the trading space, while extending and upgrading the upstairs living accommodation.

After a week of closure we hit the ground running, with the local community flocking to see what had changed, and to our delight, giving us their seal of approval by quickly settling in to support us for what was clearly going to be the long haul. This is a scenario repeated over and over in similar situations, whereby a disposal site passes into genuinely sympathetic hands. Indeed, not that we had any idea at the time, we were soon to repeat it ourselves with the purchase and turnaround of another local disposal site in the form of the Volunteer Arms just off Holgate. It is a source of great pleasure that both pubs still stand as a valuable lasting refutation of the oft-quoted myth that traditional pubs have “had their day”.

We exploited our newfound freedom to the maximum, forging more and more links with our wonderful local breweries and other suppliers, cemented by hosting regular meet-the-brewer events and beer festivals, including a large annual one in partnership with the Swan up the road (of which I was already the leaseholder). Much has changed over the past ten years with the general explosion of the craft beer scene, but when we started at the Slip these events were still somewhat trailblazing and did much to foster and strengthen a wider reputation for the pub.

Our early refurbishment was only ever intended to be the start, and Jon and I soon put plans in place to develop the pub further, with planning permission soon secured for a full scheme of works which we gradually began to achieve in a piecemeal way over the next few years. Everything we did was designed to be a sympathetic enhancement to everything that was already great about the pub, and the response of our customers reassured us that we were on the right lines. This genuinely was a labour of love by both of us, and it was essential to us that we retained the backing of our community and our lovely staff all the way.

We employed an excellent manager for several years in Lucy Cordukes, and when she moved on Jon himself took the helm in what was a complete career change. It will be as landlord of The Slip Inn that many will still have their fondest memories of Jon, as he appeared to have found a genuine calling in a role that seemed tailor-made for his fun-loving, easy-going and genuinely warm and generous spirit.

The sudden and tragic loss of Jon in May 2017 hit not just the pub, but the entire local community like a bombshell. It was especially tragic on the heels of his wife Julie’s death the previous autumn, and the pub community responded instantly and intuitively, rallying as one in shock and grief around the Farrow family. In the midst of such a terrible event it showed just what an important support network a pub can be in holding people together through not only the best, but also the worst of times.

It has been a long recovery, and even now, upon stepping in through our doors, Jon can never be out of the thoughts of anyone who knew him. His presence is still palpable in the pub and the spirit of his warm, cheery stewardship has been wonderfully sustained by our great friend Ian “Badger” Warner, who stepped into the huge void left by Jon to take our stricken pub onward and upward.

It is frankly difficult to imagine anyone who could possibly have managed this most difficult feat better and with more sensitivity.

For the past year, Ian and his wife Gill have lived with heroic goodwill through the noise and disruption of major building work, as we finally made the big push required to complete the scheme of work that Jon and I had long planned. Our dream of an onsite brewery may never have materialised, as this was going to be very much a joint pet venture for the two of us, but everything else is now pretty much in place.

The bar has been remodelled, and in the process we have nearly tripled the number of taps and hand pulls. We now offer a range of cask and craft keg beers that can be rivalled by very few pubs of our size and type. This increased beer range is fed from a brand new purpose-built cool room housed within a new three storey side extension, and the tiny old beer “cellar” (hardly more in truth than a glorified understairs cupboard) has now been brought into the pub trading area as a very popular new snug. The new toilets have all been completed, and the outbuildings in the back yard rebuilt to offer a permanent festival bar and food servery. It has been a major investment, designed to maximise the potential of the pub for the local community for years to come.

Jon would have been over the moon with the result, as he would be to receive this honour from York CAMRA in this our tenth anniversary year. With his invaluable input The Slip Inn was taken into the hearts of countless people from within the local community and also far beyond. It is a well-deserved and lasting legacy to a truly lovely man. Exactly what a pub should be, The Slip Inn is a friendly, unpretentious, truly democratic social melting pot of sociable, warm-hearted, idiosyncratic characters from all walks of life, who are just looking for the simple things that a good pub can offer like nothing else quite can – a sense of belonging, security, companionship, good humour and true community.

That is what awaits everyone when we can once again safely throw open our door.

Thank you York CAMRA for recognising us. This award is for Jon and Julie. Cheers.

Paul Crossman, 2020

Image credit York Press

York CAMRA have been choosing a Pub of the Year since 1995. We start to choose this in autumn. Members on our email network are invited to nominate up to three York and three non-York (outside the outer ring road) pubs for the award. Any pub that sells real ale in the branch area can be nominated, except for last year’s winner.

A standard, scored survey form is needed for each nomination. From all valid nominations, a shortlist of around six is compiled from those receiving the most nominations. Survey forms are then invited from the full membership over the winter. During this time, social opportunities are organised for all shortlisted pubs and members are encouraged to try them out. All valid survey forms are then collated in mid-February and the result declared in March.

Since 2015 we have also been presenting an award Club of the Year and Cider Pub of the Year.

List of previous Pub of the Year winners

Pub of the Season

Every quarter we select a Town and a Country Pub of the Season. This is done by ballot at our branch meetings in October, January, April and July. We make a conscious effort to spread the net as widely as possible and we are still finding new pubs that we feel are worth bringing to the drinking public’s attention; we see no point in choosing our own personal favourites again and again. There’s a full list of all the previous winners below.

Shortlists of three are agreed from all nominations received at the preceding branch meeting. Any branch member can make nomination(s) to the Secretary before the meeting by email, telephone or letter. Any pub that sells real ale in the branch area can be nominated, except any that have won the award in the previous year. You need to be prepared to briefly address the meeting (or find someone else to do it on your behalf) on why your pub(s) should be chosen. Alternatively, you can submit a written report for the Chair (or another nominated person) to read out to the meeting. We arrange a celebration event at the winning pubs and it is traditional for the nominator to present the coveted framed certificate.

Current Pub of the Season winners

SeasonCity Pub WinnerTown & Country Winner
Summer 2020None awarded due to Covid-19 None awarded due to Covid-19
Spring 2020None awarded due to Covid-19 None awarded due to Covid-19
Winter 2019The Shambles Tavern, ShamblesThe Marcia Inn, Bishopthorpe
Autumn 2019The Knavesmire Hotel, Albermarle RoadThe Coach House Inn, Rosedale
Summer 2019The Volunteer Arms, Watson StreetThe Doghouse, Selby
Spring 2019The House of the Trembling Madness, LendalThe Market Tap, Pocklington
Winter 2018The Fox, Holgate RoadThe Three Hares Inn, Bilbrough
Autumn 2018The Gillygate, GillygateThe Golden Lion, Helperby
Summer 2018The Wellington Inn, Alma TerraceThe New Inn, Cliffe
Spring 2018Three Legged Mare, High PetergateThe Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge
Winter 2017The Swan, ClementhorpeThe Blacksmiths Arms, Lastingham
Autumn 2017The Ackhorne, St Martin's LaneThe Hare and Hounds, Holme-on-Spalding Moor
Summer 2017Slip InnGeorge & Dragon, West Haddlesey
Spring 2017Brew YorkBay Horse, Burythorpe
Winter 2016Blue Bell, YorkMoors Inn, Appleton le Moors
Autumn 2016Eagle & Child, YorkLord Collingwood, Upper Poppleton

List of previous Pub of the season winners