The Bear, Bedford’s alternative pub and stalwart of the High Street, is to close at last orders on Saturday to undergo a major refurbishment by owners, Admiral Taverns.
It’s not the first time the pub’s owners have tinkered with the building. Who could forget its brief iteration as The Artisan Tap or The Snug under former owners, Hawthorn Leisure?
It will close for a month while the building work takes place, reopening under Admiral Taverns’ ‘Prober Pubs’ brand but retaining the name The Bear.
It will not, however, retain the iconic jukebox.
Landlady, Lisa Pawsey, will be pulling her last pint on Saturday night, handing over the pub to a new team when it reopens.
“I think the new phase is best off in a new pair of hands,” she told the Bedford Independent.
‘Keep The Bear as The Bear’
The changes have been robustly rejected by Bear regulars, one of whom set up a petition calling on Admiral Taverns to reverse the decision.
“The Bear on Bedford High Street has been the home of alternative music and lifestyle for many years. It was changed many years ago to the Artisan Tap which failed massively,” wrote Anthony McAlpine.
“Now Admiral Taverns would like to change it into a “proper pub” brand. This will strip the pub’s personality and also push [The Bear’s] huge clientele out of their ‘home’ again.”
The petition attracted nearly 500 signatures, but it seems the pleas fell on deaf ears.
An email response from Admiral Taverns’ managing director, Ian Ronayne, to one Bear regular, confirmed that the pub will lose its ‘rock ethos’.
“I wish the new management the best of luck,” said Lisa.
“It is lovely that there are such strong feelings about this place. It’s been fabulous to run The Bear and overall a joy to be behind the bar. I know that on Saturday I’ll probably have a tear in my eye when I’m serving that last drink.”
“Here we go again,” said one drinker.
“They’re throwing away something money can’t buy. Bedford’s unique pubs are among the things that make our town special. To make these changes is to completely misunderstand the place The Bear holds in the High Street and in people’s hearts.”
The Bedford Independent contacted Admiral Taverns for a comment but they did not respond in time for our deadline.