My Pub: The Three Tuns, Sheffield

By Liam Coleman

- Last updated on GMT

My Pub: The Three Tuns, Sheffield

Related tags Kelham island Public house Campaign for real ale Beer

The unique size and shape of the Three Tuns is both a blessing and a curse. The manager of the Sheffield pub, Kate Major, explains how its iconic triangular shape draws customers in, but how it also presents its own challenges for the closely-knit team.

The pub

The building used to be a nun’s washhouse, built on a medieval road system which went from the cathedral to what was a nunnery. There are tunnels underneath the pub that used to go between the cathedral and nunnery.

The current building wasn’t built until the early 19th century. It’s quite difficult to find out what was here before because there’s been a building on the site since the 1300s.

The triangular build is probably one of the main draws for people. You get a lot of people standing down the road and taking a photo, as they do with the Flatiron Building in New York. I think that’s what initially captures people, but I’d like to think they’d keep coming back for the pub.

Key facts

Address: ​Silver Street, Sheffield

Tenure: ​Punch leasehold

Staff: ​ Six

Wet:dry split: ​90:10

Best-selling dish: ​Pork pies (£3.95 whole or £2.45 half)

The location

The pub is in a really odd place between the centre of town and Kelham Island. The centre is three minutes south, while Kelham Island, which is the beer quarter, is three minutes north. The real challenge when we first started here was making people associate the pub with either one or the other.

To associate the Three Tuns with the Kelham Island pubs, I’ve been very active with Sheffield CAMRA. Last year I was the secretary and tried to bring people in to show them we’ve got six decent ales on. I’m the chair this year.

The customers

Our weekday customers are people who work in nearby offices, so that’s lunchtime and early evening. Later in the evening, it’s people who live in local blocks of flats or others who live close by and are doing some pubs on Kelham Island. At the weekend, it’s either people shopping in town, or people who have come to Sheffield for real ale.

Whenever the snooker is on at the Crucible, we always get a large Norwegian contingent. I don’t know why as we don’t even show the snooker. Last year they got Kurt Maflin through to the first round; this year he didn’t even make it to the first round, but they all came over anyway.

There’s the fringe festival, Tramlines. We don’t put anything on for it because we don’t really have the space, but we still take twice as much money then. I think people like that they can just come and enjoy some peace and quiet.

The manager

If you said to me when I was 15 that this is what I’d be doing 12 years later, I’d have probably laughed in your face because I was the shyest 15-year-old. When I was a student, bar work was the perfect job because it fitted around all routines and dragged me out of my shell. Since then it’s just been a progression.

My boss has four pubs in Sheffield under the Reet Ale Pubs brand. I started working for him in the Closed Shop on Commonside as a supervisor just over three years ago. Within a few months of that, he took over here and I came down as the assistant manager. Then he decided to take on more pubs and, in September 2014, I stayed as manager.

The team

We have six members of staff: one is kitchen, one is kitchen and bar, and the rest are bar.

A lot of them are students, who leave when they leave university. So if we get them early on we’ll get them for two or three years, which is quite nice. It means customers know who they’ve got, I know where I am with them, and I trust them all completely. We’ve got quite good retention rates for staff because it’s a nice community and everyone gets on well.

When staff come in outside of work for food or drink they get a discount, which we work out per drink.

Ale on the bar

Blue Bee Centennial IPA

Mallinsons Argentinian Cascade

Yeovil Ales Stout Hearted

Kelham Island Easy Rider

Sharp's Doom Bar

The offer

We are a Punch tavern. That means we’re tied on everything except wine, but we do what we can to make it original enough for people to come in. I don’t want it to fit in to any pre-ordained template of what a pub should be. I want it to be a bit more organic.

Although we are restricted in what we can buy, we do what we can to get stuff that is a bit more exciting. We’ve got a decent gin selection and their beer is getting better.

All the Reet Ale pubs centre around ale and beer to varying degrees; some of us have more freedom in what we can buy than others. I think we are the most limited of the pubs, but I don’t think it causes too many issues.

Food-wise we don’t do an awful lot because the kitchen is very small and we don’t have the plating-up space. It is mainly there for office workers who come in for drinks at lunchtime and need a chip butty to fill them up a bit. We used to do a lot more food, but it wasn’t sustainable.

The busiest times would ordinarily be lunchtime and early evening on a Friday. On Wednesday we have a quiz at six o’clock, which people come for when they finish work, so that’s very busy. On a Friday and Saturday night, we dip off around 7.30-8pm when the office workers go home, but it picks up again at about 9.30-10pm.

It’s a real challenge to put on any entertainment aside from the quiz because it’s a risk with the space. We have a folk night and we’ve got board games night, but just small things.



We were voted second best pub in Sheffield by CAMRA last year; we came second to the Kelham Island Tavern, which always wins. Someone said, ‘Congratulations for being the best pub in Sheffield that isn’t the Kelham Island Tavern’ – that is genuinely an accolade. We’ve also won CAMRA Sheffield pub of the month twice since I’ve been here.

We’ve always been very lucky in that people from other cities come to see us because Sheffield is renowned for having really good beer. Since winning the award and being in the Good Beer Guide, people are starting to associate us with the Sheffield ale scene, so we’re definitely seeing growth in Saturday business.

Future plans

We want to get a beer festival in at some point, hopefully in the autumn, which would be our first. We’re just trying to work out where we would put it.

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