I always used the back bar at Kingsmeadow pre game, afterwards time permitting, I would head to the main bar for the MoTM presentations. I preferred the back bar, it used a proper queueing system, had seats, until the hospitality got too big, and was not too busy generally to stand inside if cold, or sit outside with the eventual awning. The back bar was with my Dad, Daughter and occasionally Dads friend, Pete.
We didn’t meet the rest of the guys until in the ground as they would often arrive just prior to kick off having had drinks and food elsewhere en route.
The back bar, in fact both bars at Kingsmeadow were nice enough; however, they looked like a social club from the 1960s and didn’t really have a great selection of beers, later on, that did start to improve slightly.
The only complaint I had was how to get a drink at half-time, I wasn’t convinced by the theatre type half time pre-order process. At Selhurst, one thing I did like was you could walk straight out at half-time and get a bottle of beer (I was less fussy then, it was terrible but fast).
So, when I first heard that the plans for Plough Lane included an actual pub I was blown away, most grounds that I have experienced over the years have either the social club type bar as per Kingsmeadow or the concession type breeze block food outlets that happen to sell beer, like Selhurst. The idea of an actual pub we could sit in and enjoy pre- and post-match sounded fantastic!
Next came the chance to name the pub, fans were asked to submit names, I had no idea, at all, my Dad, however, messaged me and said what about “The Phoenix”, of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that.
Dad was reluctant to put it in as a suggestion, so I insisted, I don’t know how many other people came up with that name but it was in the final selection for voting, and of course it won! So, as far as my daughter and I are concerned, Dad named the pub at Plough Lane.
In May 2021, we went to look at the Stadium from the outside and wander around, I had attended the test games, but The Phoenix was not allowed to be open for those.
We had booked a spot at By The Horns a smaller local brewery that had a Taproom on Summerstown road as they sold excellent beer and was the nearest place we could have a beer and pizza.
For the first couple of games, we decided to stop and meet at The Leather Bottle, in the summer sunshine. Food and drink there was good and to be fair the beer garden is fantastic. Although it was fun, initially having to use an app was annoying, coupled with some nervous food delays as kick off approached and Dad always being slightly on edge we are not seconds away from the pitch was slightly stressful.
However, more importantly we all generally felt we wanted to spend our money at the ground, drink in our pub and maximise club revenue. Plus, you can relax right up to kick off.
I think two things really made this choice even easier. First was the arrival of Food Trucks behind the South stand (the concession food in the main concourse I really don’t like) plus the food trucks gave me more options that just a vegan burger (The Leather Bottle) or a Vegetarian Burger (concession).
Second when By The Horns took over The Phoenix, this brought the fantastic beers, friendly atmosphere and a local business from the small taproom we had originally visited to a better and bigger location to run our pub, 7 days a week!
As an aside the addition of the speedy bar function via the Swipe Station app for half-time drinks is also excellent, not sure if this is run by Elior as the Swipe Station website doesn’t list us under Football clubs.
I suspect however I could in fact just as easily head down to The Phoenix and still have plenty of time to not miss a single kick of the match, the staff in The Phoenix are fast, friendly and provide an excellent service, many now don a Wimbledon Shirt too, not the same can be said of the staff at the concourse/consession outlets, I have raised my issues with the DTB about this.
My favourite beer in The Phoenix has been the Squeezer but Stiff Upper Lip is catching up. I am hoping they might bring another Sour into the pub soon and would like to see a bit more of a rotation if they can, although they don’t have too many cask options.
I did like Crazy Gang, made especially for AFC Wimbledon but I am finding it far too cold a lot of the time currently. I am not sure if it’s just that winter is coming or that they have the temperature set a little too aggressive.
I also wonder if they could have a canning station set up for a cheeky take home train beer.
Finally I would, after Martin suggested it in The Phoenix, love to match Brentford and see a pub on all 4 corners as we build out the stadium ! That would be outstanding especially if each was a microbrewery, Brewdog, you are also welcome!
So, we now all meet before the game in The Phoenix, to drink and try a variety of food from the Food truck selection, all our collective Saturday spend goes into the clubs finances. Why? because of the way AFC have worked with the local brewery, created a great pub atmosphere and invited the local food trucks to our ground. Well done AFC.
The set up of the pub also improved over the close season after feedback to have certain improvements and add seating and better lights.
Some of the lights now seem to dangle in front of the TVs if you sit in the wrong place and the stairwell up to the main stand open for match days is still a little dark for my personal preferences and maybe for match days it could have some additional lighting, but that is minor.
Personally I live too far away to visit outside of match days or for specific occasions but even if you are not a football fan, you can always try The Phoenix for a Broncos Rugby game or pop in during the week to sample some of their excellent craft beer or even play a pub quiz, you wont be disappointed. COYD!