Meet the GBPA nominees: Best Student Pub

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September
Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September

Related tags: Pub, Great british pub, British pub awards, Pub quiz, Public house

Our next set of previews for the finalists in this year’s John Smith’s Great British Pub Awards are the nominees in the Best Student Pub category. 

This category seeks to recognise pubs whose student offer has been a core part of their business success in the past year.

Bar One, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

This Sheffield-based pub certainly pays close attention to the student market, and being part of Sheffield University’s Student Union helps play a big role in that. The recent introduction of a vegan menu has proven a strong draw, as has the investment in creating a strong premium craft beer option, and for those youngsters who avoid alcohol, a premium soft drinks range as well.

The pub provides sponsorship to 11 student sports teams and societies, giving them money and discount cards, which allow them to track spending and target promotions at particular groups and products.

Organising weekly pub quizzes, DJ nights, beer festivals, sporting events and karaoke has seen the operation improve revenue, changing the view of the business from being a pre-club operation, to a destination visit for the city’s students.

The Cowley Retreat, Oxford

This Oxford-based business is certainly in the right place to attract the student market, but that doesn’t mean it’s rested on its laurels. It takes the approach of being ‘student friendly’ as opposed to being a dedicated student pub, but its connections to university societies and groups at Oxford and Brookes is extensive, with support offered to more than 20 societies across the two, ranging from funding equipment for sports teams to hosting mixers and socials.

The pub has also partnered with a student events group, called Deux, to host a variety of ‘by students, for students’ style events, including The Lock In, Live Lounge and Garden Party. These events have had more than 500 attendees at each. The pub says the work with Deux has proven so successful among Oxford Brooke students that the venue is now referred to as the ‘Student Union’ on Cowley Road.

The Doctor’s Orders, Sheffield

Defending champion, the Doctor’s Orders, wowed the judges last year, and will be hoping to repeat it again this year.

This business estimates it sponsors 5,000 students across 28 different societies and groups, allowing them to purchase kit and equipment and helping to fund tours.

Located between the university union and the teaching hospital block means the pub has strong connections with its student-customer base, and offers discounted meal deals to society members.

Innovation is a key part of the operation, and it was one of the first in the area to trial a new mobile phone-based pub quiz system, which has proven a huge hit.

With a microbrewery providing a strong talking point, the operators are keen to roll out the format into a recognised brand.

Dram!, Glasgow

With an impressive sponsorship of 24 societies and groups from its local university, and a further three sports teams, ranging from function facilities to equipment provision, this Glasgow-based operation firmly embraces its target student market.

With younger consumers embracing a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, Dram! is keen to tap into that ethos, and has a ‘waste less’ initiative that has seen straws removed from the bar as well as investments into recycled products and energy efficient equipment. The pub has also started to compost its food waste, which is donated to two local community funded gardens.

With a big interest in cocktails among the clientele, but not necessarily the budget to indulge, the bar has hit on the idea of providing ‘affordable’ cocktails and long drinks.

The Mailbox, Lincoln

Situated in the centre of Lincoln, the Mailbox is a dynamic business that attracts a diverse range of student groups and societies. A huge proportion of the students that attend the city’s two main universities, Lincoln and Bishop Grosseteste, use the pub to work and study, and take advantage of the site’s facilities, including super-fast Wi-Fi, charging points and free printing, and to socialise, eat, drink and be entertained, benefiting from a generous student discount.

Groups and societies that use the pub range from the American football teams to netball associations. Loyalty cards are available, and can be personalised to suit any of the groups that use the pub.

All of the above helps to cement this pub’s reputation as one of the best student bars in town.

The Swan, Lincoln

The Swan is one of two finalists in this category from Lincoln.

Being the university’s student union bar certainly ensures that the Swan is in prime place to engage with all the various student bodies and groups and provides space for all the varied groups that want social space and to organise fundraisers.

A broad range of events pulls in the punters, from regular quizzes to speed-dating nights, craft nights, seminars and game nights. A popular event has proven to be Monday Movies, which allows the bar to target specific societies, such as the Harry Potter group, or Disney and Anime societies.

The bar aims to offer a quality experience for students, with a focus on craft beers, premium spirits and locally sourced, high-quality food, as well as a broad range of non-alcoholic drinks.

 ​Tickets for the Great British Pub Awards can be bought by phoning 01293 846508. For more information about the event visit its dedicated website.

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