All the regional winners automatically become finalists for national awards in each of 17 national categories, and then each of our national winners will be considered for the big prize — the champion of champions and our Sky Sports Great British Pub of the Year.
If you ever wanted a ‘bucket list’ of fantastic pubs to visit over the course of the year, here are 90 of the very best — equivalent to 7½ a month, or one every four days or so.
I had the pleasure of visiting a few of them in the course of my judging duties, and am happy to report that there is a tremendous vibrancy in imaginative pub retailing right across the UK in all types of on-trade establishment, from traditional pubs to modern bars, and from managed outlets through independent freehouses to tenancies and leases.
Despite representing a diverse group of businesses and serving a wide range of different customers, our regional winners have plenty in common — including a relentless approach to excellent customer service and dedication to staff training front and back of house. They all work hard and smart, focusing their efforts on the ‘critical impact activities’ that will make the biggest difference to their business.
It’s great to see these awards endorsed by high-calibre sponsors, including many leading product suppliers and pubcos — this week we welcome Hogs Back Brewery and Greene King IPA to the party — all keen to recognise and support the achievements of their customers/partners, and to associate themselves with success stories.
For more information on all the 2014 sponsors and bar partners visit the awards website.
We try to keep the event fresh each year with new categories that reflect key developments in pub land. So ‘Best Cider Pub’ is an on-trend award that recognises pubs making the most of the burgeoning cider opportunity. And our new Best Pub Loos category will see the pubs with the most amazing bathrooms ‘flushed’ with success. No ‘bog standard’ lavatories here. A (toilet) roll of honour, if you like.
Joking aside, if you haven’t understood the importance of pleasant privies, where have you been lately?
It’s not too late to book your place at the Great British Pub Awards, which take place on 11 September at London’s Hilton Hotel. It’s my favourite party — not least because I get to wear fancy dress in line with the event theme.
Last year I was a sheriff in the Wild West; this year it’s a sports showcase. Suggestions on a postcard, please — and no, I won’t be appearing as Commonwealth gold medalist Tom Daley!
Click here for the full list of regional winners.