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Ye Old Shambles Tavern – one of York’s famous pubs prepares to re-opens

With opportunities to guide limited at present, I made contact with Keith Mclean owner of Ye Old Shambles Tavern and his manager Luke to hear a little bit about the history of the pub and their plans to re-open on 4th July.

I had visited Ye Old Shambles Tavern a few times pre-Covid as part of a “Half Pint History Tour of York” that I run for small groups at Christmas for corporate events. I had always been met with a friendly welcome and knowledgeable staff, so when it turned out a friend of a friend knew the owner I thought that it was worth a chat to talk about the pub and life after lockdown.

The Tavern as the name suggests is situated on the Shambles in York. It is probably York’s most famous street with some of the buildings being timber framed houses dating back to medieval times. I plan to write a more detailed blog about the history of the street in a future blog, but the street gets its name from the “Fleshammels” – an Anglo Saxon word literally meaning “Flesh Shelves”. These were wooden shelves where meat was laid out at the front of the shops as since the 1300’s – because this was the street of the butchers.

Up to the 1870’s there were still 25 butchers shops on the Shambles and whist the Tavern is in one of the relatively newer building on the street built in Georgian times, it still was once a butchers shop.

The team at Ye Old Shambles Tavern have planned meticulously for the re-opening and whist they will not be able to operate at full capacity due to social distancing they guarantee a warm welcome, with fine ales and food in characterful surroundings. Luke, one of the Managers explained the measures that they were putting in place to operate safely, how staff will have their temperature taken each day upon starting work, how only groups of 4 or less would be allowed in, how temperature would be checked for those guests arriving and emails and telephone numbers taken of those customers, (but which would only be held for 2 weeks due to data protection).

The Tavern has had a lick of paint during lockdown but has still maintained its character and olde worlde feel with its exposed wooden beams, candles and lanterns. There is memorabilia in one room dating back to the time it was a butchers and when this back room would have probably been used as a slaughter house for livestock purchased from the Shambles Market behind the tavern.

I’m partial to a beer or two myself and was amazed to hear that with bottles and cans, the pub offers 79 different beers and hopes to get that up to 130 once trade picks up! There are 10 hand pulled beers and what is great is that they offer beer flights – third of a pint glasses served on a wooden paddle to allow visitors to sample three different brews. They also offer a 3 G&T paddle with different gins and botanicals too!.

Their beer offering also includes 3 of their own brews made by the York based Rudgate Brewery. There is Shambles Best Bitter – a proper bitter and very popular with locals, Shambles Dark as Luke explained a pumped up mild with a caramel and oaty taste as well as a lighter blonde but hoppy session beer, Shambles Stumbler at 3.8%. All highly recommended.

They also offer a choice of hearty food to help soak up the ale including Fish and Chips, Steak, Ploughman’s lunch and many more. I wish them luck when they re-open and will definitely pop in for a pint of Stumbler next time I am in York!

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Jul 02, 2020

Great post; I've not visited the Shambles Tavern' though passed many times; so in the future it will be rectified; with some sense of achievement and pleasure ! Thanks

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