Outside the rain is beating down and steadily-increasing traffic rumbles impatiently at the busy traffic lights on the corner of Gloucester Road and Zetland Road, but inside the Prince of Wales it is a picture of tranquility.
On the wooden tables, empty Bristol vodka and Bristol gin bottles hold bright sunflowers. The bar staff chat with a well-spoken man who orders a pint so he can charge his expensive phone, and a pair of lads shake the rain from their skin-fades and order a couple of huge jacket potatoes (starting from £5), complimenting the team on their new menu.
A half of Symonds cider sets me back just £2.05, and there are other local offerings at the bar, including beers from Butcome, Gem and Bristol Beer Factory. I sip my drink at my leisure in the welcoming surroundings, to the sounds of quiet background music and the rustle of a paper being opened.
If ever a pub sat at the heart of a community, it is this one. Underneath the shelves stacked with books to borrow and board games to play, a dozen different leaflets advertise local events, zine fairs and indie gigs, yoga classes, taxi companies and stained glass artists.
A row of rainbow flags hangs above the well-stocked wooden bar, proudly displaying a message that everyone is welcome; everyone except the big business that wants to take over the running of this place, and sack the current landlady, Anna Gorman, who has poured her soul into making this a real pub amongst the plethora of bars on the Gloucester Road strip.
On the bar is a well-thumbed petition, the top page half-full of names and addresses and signatures. Two charity collection tins also sit on the bar, repurposed with Tipp-Ex, declaring that donations will help to save the pub by paying the legal fees.
Looking around the pub, I can see the table I sat at with my friends at my last birthday; a bench seat in the corner where I had a clumsy kiss on a drunken date; the covered patio garden where I’ve met with pals and shared food and stories. It’s a pub woven into the histories of so many Bristolians, myself included.
The Victorian windows and flagstone floor speak of a time where all pubs were local; all landlords independent and proud. What a shame it would be if this place disappeared, only to be reincarnated as a soulless identikit sports bar.
I finish my drink and leave my empty glass back to the bar: rule number eight on their handwritten sign (other rules include ‘4. Anyone carrying two or more drinks has right of way’ and ‘7. If you are refused service, be thankful we got you drunk in the first place’). The door swings shut and I’m back out in the grey drizzle on Gloucester Road, Bristol’s fiercely independent strip. Let’s hope it stays that way for as long as possible.
Prince of Wales
5 Gloucester Road
0117 924 5552
Read more: Pub of the week – The Avon Packet