THE Alexandra Arms is one of those pubs that is instantly likeable – although putting your finger on what makes it unique isn’t easy.
At the Alex the walls aren’t adorned with ornaments, antiques or trinkets and the tables are slightly battle-scarred from decades being bashed with bottles, pint glass and ashtrays.
None of that matters though, because the place has something that no amount of money can buy – and that lies in the atmosphere. It feels rugged, unpretentious and friendly. Not friendly in an awkward supermarket-checkout kind of way, it’s more of an effortless, down-to-earth, humble kind of feel.
Named after Queen Alexandra of Denmark, the pub has been there since 1851 and like most traditional pubs is divided in two. The front bar is a traditional, quiet public house while the back bar – which I’m familiar with myself as a customer – is completely different. I’d argue the rear has by far the best jukebox in Rugby, offering anything and everything between Pink Floyd and Abba to Slipknot and Nine Inch Nails. There’s no other pub like it in Rugby and while first timers may be a bit taken-back by the rear bar (usually full of bikers, students, and rockers etc), they’ll always be made to feel welcome.
Keith Abbis, who owns the pub with Nick Pugh, said: “I think our regulars keep coming here because we’ve got a great selection of real ales, a fantastic beer garden, live bands and our own brewery. We’ve won Rugby Camra pub of the year eight times which, at some point at least, was a record.”
He added: “The two parts of the pub serve completely different groups of people, but everyone gets along here. We’ve owned it for two years but we’re continuing to spend money on it to make sure we give people a reason to visit.”
Regulars in the two ends of the pub have become more familiar with each other in recent years as they share the large beer garden, the ideal place to unwind on summer evenings. Next to the garden is the pub’s brewery, the Atomic Brewery, brewing ales with names like Half Life and Fission here and at the owners’ other pub, The Queen Victoria in Lower Hillmorton Road.
The qualities of the pub are summed up by regular Roy Hat. He told me: “Being a relative new-comer to Rugby I’ve found that the two most convivial pubs in the town are this one and the Half Moon – I don’t bother going anywhere else. It’s the feel of the place, it’s just friendly, easygoing and there’s no nonsense because everyone is welcome here.
“It’s relaxing and safe and everyone knows each other. There’s no Sky Sports or any of that and it’s the sort of place where no one who walks through the front door will be made to feel unwelcome.”