II’s classic expat financial services industry pubs: Jersey

When financial services expats are far from home in a foreign land, they periodically like to congregate in places where they can, for a brief time at least, be among their own kind. 

As we have been observing over the last few weeks, as we’ve begun looking at where expats like to hang out, it seems that there are times when even teetotal expats who are weary of the non-stop foreign-ness of their current posting can find comfort and companionship in their locality’s unofficial, but de facto, favourite expat hang-out.

This week, we nominate our choice for the Best Classic Expat Financial Industry Pub on the island of Jersey.

Establishment: The Cock & Bottle
Address: Royal Square
St Helier, Jersey  JE2 4WA
Tel: +(0)1534 722 184
www.liberationgroup.com/pubs/the-cock-and-bottle
Monday – Sunday: 11.00am to 11.00pm  

Like many other so-called “classic” expat pubs in the world’s major finance centres, the Cock & Bottle is located in a district that is seeing a growing number of key institutions departing, as they migrate to a part of town that is gradually becoming the new financial services district – in the case of  Jersey, this is a stretch of road parallel to the waterfront known as the Esplanade.

But regulars as well as the pub’s management say the historic Cock & Bottle continues to be a financial services industry favourite, in part owing to its “olde worlde” charm, and the fact that it isn’t all that far from the new office blocks still going up along the Esplanade, and its environs.

Then too, they say, it continues to benefit from being located in the same square as Jersey’s answer to to the UK’s Houses of Parliament – the States of Jersey buildings – as well as the island’s main courthouse. Many major banks and the Jersey Financial Services Commission, while not around the corner, aren’t far away, they add.

“I think the Cock & Bottle appeals to people who want a great, traditional pint after work, in an environment that has genuine provenance and wasn’t just invented last week,” says Mark Crowther, chief executive of the pub’s owner, the Liberation Group, which is based in Jersey and runs some 93 pubs in Jersey, Guernsey and the UK. It also brews Liberation Ale, which the Cock & Bottle sells more of than any other pub in Jersey.

Liberation pub beer cropped“The finance crowd and those who are in Jersey on business like to come and drink the local ale, which has been brewed for 145 years here in Jersey,” Crowther, who oversaw an management buyout in 2008 that was backed by LGV Capital, the private equity group of Legal & General, adds.

“But you also have the States of Jersey people, and TV and radio crews that hang out in the square at all hours of the days and night to catch the thoughts of the politicians when they come out after some major debate or bill.

“[Many of these politicians and their associates] tend to pop up to the Cock & Bottle afterwards.”

The Cock & Bottle is also well placed, Crowther and others say, to accommodate those in the final stages of the process of purchasing property in Jersey, who are required, under Jersey law, to swear an oath in connection with their purchase at the Royal Court – on Fridays only. “They’ll quite often come over to the C&B and celebrate with their lawyers,” says Crowther.

The Cock & Bottle’s outdoor space, which adjoins that of another historic Liberation Group pub, the Peirson, is another key attraction, particularly in warm weather, locals say.

“It’s not unheard of for people to get a little too tipsy in the C&B, get thrown out, and simply fall next door into the Pierson to carry on,” says one Jersey native who now works in financial services on the island.

“There aren’t many bars in St Helier that have an open-air option, so this is definitely an advantage for the Cock & Bottle,” adds another local (who says she’s always considered herself  “more of a Peirson girl”, noting that it was seen as more “downmarket” than the C&B because, among other things, it would accept as clients those in the building trade who weren’t generally allowed in next door in their construction-worker boots).

Not a lot is known about the Cock & Bottle’s history beyond the fact that it was already a tavern at the time of the Battle of Jersey, in 1781. Back then, it was much closer to the sea than it is now. According to a brief history provided by a Liberation Group marketing executive, the Cock & Bottle name comes from a description of how one used to be able to get one’s ale – either from a tap, or “cock”, or out of a bottle.

“In its time the pub has been known as the Central, [as it is sandwiched between] the Peirson and the former Chamber of Commerce building, the Cosy Corner, and finally revert[ed] to the Cock & Bottle,” the Liberation Group history adds, noting that the company decided to restore the original name back in the 1960s, to reflect the pub’s history, as well as its links with a locally-brewed ale that, as it happens, is available on tap as well as in bottles.

These days, financial services types who find their way to the Cock & Bottle may be coming for more than a pint of Liberation Ale: According to Crowther, LGV Capital is currently looking to “exit” its investment in the group, as private equity entities generally do after a certain period of time. As a result, the C&B is one of the Liberation Group assets any prospective buyers of the group are likely to be scrutinising. The offering comes a year after the Liberation Group acquired Butcombe Brewery, a West Country, UK-based pub chain.

“We’re looking for a new partner to help us grow the business,” Crowther says.

“We’ve had a lot of interest, and its those of our pubs like the Cock & Bottle which are the reason.”

To see last week’s best classic expat pub, in Dubai, click here.

Next week: International Investment’s choice for best classic expat pub in Muscat.

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