Leeds – The Golden Beam

This is the controversial new JD Wetherspoon outlet, the Golden Beam, in the Headingley area of Leeds that certain elements of the council didn’t want.

The building is magnificent, built for the Church of Christ, Scientist in 1912, although it was converted into an arts centre in 1986. It remained in use for that purpose until 2010 and then it remained derelict and this wonderful heritage building could have potentially be lost. The owners couldn’t sell it and then JD Wetherspoon came along and got rebuffed when they tried to get the appropriate permissions. They persisted and they’ve delivered on an incredible transformation of a building, it’s one of the largest in their estate and very sensitively restored. The pub name is intriguing as well, it’s named after a painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw, a local artist.

The view from upstairs. The council have told JD Wetherspoons that they can’t have people taking part in the Otley Run coming in, which is a popular pub crawl that local students enjoy, that seemed to be the final sticking point that needed to be agreed.

On the downside here, the pub didn’t have any guest real ales and so I just had a can of raspberry lemonade, not quite the beer experience that I was expecting. But, that doesn’t much matter, I was pleased just to see what a good job the company has done here in the conversion.

A quick look at the reviews, which aren’t as positive as the company probably wanted. I noted the:

“Wouldn’t let us in as allegedly I was too drunk, this is based on the fact I said we were on a stag do… not sure how this statement defines a level of drunkenness.”

To be fair to the door staff, most stag nights done properly do involve drunkenness, especially if the best man has decided that it’ll involve a JD Wetherspoon outlet. They do seem to be a fair few complaints about the door staff not letting drunk customers in, so it sounds like they’re probably doing a decent job at maintaining order here. I can imagine this pub is a bloody nightmare to manage on a Friday and Saturday night though.

The pub company invested over £4 million here and I find it bizarre that their offer to do this was rejected at one point by the city council. It’s located in a student area of the city and I can imagine it’ll be very popular from that demographic, but there was a variety of customers in today when I visited. The staff were helpful and were taking time explaining the menu to an elderly lady who needed assistance, all very professional. I don’t know how many customers this pub can seat, but it must be in the hundreds across the two floors.

In short, I was suitably impressed, although more beers would have been useful.