Most towns have one. Some have more than one. Some unfortunate towns have nothing but them; rough pubs. I don't mean the type celebrated by tongue-in-cheek guides, with a meat raffle, a copy of the Racing Post left on a buffet and Karaoke on fridays. I mean the ones with a tangible sense of threat, like an unexploded bomb. We have one of those in Leytonstone - it's called Lincolns. Opened in 1872 and originally called The Elms, Lincolns is a handsome building about halfway up the High Road between the railway bridge and the parish church. A lot of the older community have fond memories of the Elms as a decent pub, but it's had a varied history. In 1983 - as the newly renamed Lincolns - CAMRA described the place as a "Young people's musically orientated establishment. Loud music in main bar". In the late 80s it was briefly renamed "Big Hand Mo's" and i'm sure it was a precisely as good as that sounds, especially as it was selling Webster's Bitter, perhaps the least-missed Yorkshire ale of all time.
In recent years there were complaints by local residents of blatant drug dealing and customers openly urinating and defecating in neighbouring streets. Vomit, used condoms and discarded tights became an unwanted feature of many a local garden. There was at least one stabbing and even rumours of firearms being waved around. A midnight punch-up could be witnessed at least once a week. There were some very intimidating characters hanging around. I'm no coward, but I often used to cross the road to avoid them and their stocky, snarling dogs.
The local Police have been proactive about this charming establishment, and spent some time quietly gathering evidence. What finally cooked Lincolns' goose was a copper actually being told on his undercover visit that he "looked like he might enjoy some coke" and that the dealer had "just popped out" but would be back. He was later offered counterfeit DVDs and treated to a lock-in. A court appeal revealed that the manager was actually too scared of his clientele to confront them about their behaviour. To the delight of everyone except the hoodlums who came from as far away as South London to make merry on our doorstep, the pub is boarded up. It doesn't end there though - the pub will reopen in autumn as a rebranded, renewed "community pub" selling real ale. Leytonstone could definately do with a couple more decent pubs - and I really hope that this will be one at last.
I haven't got a picture of Lincolns - so here's a supremely hoppy and fresh pint of Skinner's Betty Stoggs I enjoyed at the Bush Inn, Morwenstow, last week.