Can A Pub Be Feminist? These Female Entrepreneurs

Portrait of hispanic businesswoman with a file standing in meeting room with colleagues disucssing in background

Do you still have the “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like?” T-shirts? It’s easy to forget that they were a long time ago in fashion and feminism. They were worn by both men and women, as they were at times, and had the benefit of illustrating a concept many struggles to grasp: that feminism is for everyone.

This means that women have the same rights and freedoms as men. It applies to all women, not just white, straight, and educated. Although the principle is simple to understand, it can be not easy to apply to institutions and ideas that have been historically male-dominated.

The Flowerhouse is a Marylebone-based female-led pub that has been subject to many misunderstandings since its opening in November 2013. It appears to be a pub from the outside. This is true despite its origins in the 19th century. However, once you step inside, you’ll find something different. It’s a pub, but it has something very feminine about it.

The wallpaper is floral. Pink walls. All wooden tables, lamps, and menus are lighter. Although it’s not too obvious, it shows how masculine our idea of “a good pub” has become. Their qualities are inextricably connected, just like James Bond. The great British pub has been so male-dominated for so long. Just as Daniel Craig challenged bond-shaped preconceptions in 2021, so did it see women like Jo Jackson from The Flowerhouse or Josephine Savry from The Rose & Crown Clapham taking on older boozers to make them more interesting.

The Flowerhouse isn’t the first pub run by a woman, contrary to some clickbait headlines. It is not only female-led. Jackson says, “I started this with my business partner” and her husband. Jackson says, “I founded this with my business partner and my husband.” Jackson’s first goal was to change the perception that women are not being represented in the hospitality industry. She also addressed the issues of working hours, culture, stigma, and stigma. Safety was their second goal. They wanted to engage women and those who felt intimidated by pubs or patrons. There are also subtler “micro-cues”, which signal masculinity. When redesigning their venues, Jackson and Savoy questioned themselves: “What are the reasons why women don’t want a drink by themselves?”

“Is it in the dark corners?” Is it the food and drinks? Jackson asks, “Is it the absence of women behind the bars?” Jackson says all these factors contribute to a more masculine environment, making it feel hostile. Before the refurbishment, The Rose & Crown was home to seven regulars sitting in the same seats daily. Savoy says they had to take their seats and would glare at anyone coming in. “I saw women walk through the door and then just walk out again,” said Savoy. Although it is a bright, airy space that looks much like The Flowerhouse with its extensive menu featuring pan-fried hake and steak-and-ale pie, it was once a traditional boozer when Savoy took over.

“There was a certain air of, “She doesn’t know what’s happening.” She asks, “Why is she running our pub?” “But I had to save money to renovate it – so I ran the pub as a boozer while completing my planning application.” Perceptions have changed over time. Although regulars are still there, they are now more respectful. The chanting is gone. “We aren’t a football pub.” Rosannah Cherrill is Savary’s friendly assistant general manager. If they start chanting, I’ll threaten them with taking their beer away. It’s a pub I can say I would go to for a drink alone. Yes, wine and cocktails – but there is something especially male about going to the pub alone, conjuring images of sipping a pint in the Sports section. This imbalance was the inspiration for Jackson’s creation of The Flowerhouse. My dad used to go to The Flowerhouse every day for a quiet moment. “I wanted to create a space for women where they could have quiet moments without being judged or approached.” It is encouraging to see women come into The Flowerhouse with books, and one woman works nearby.

Feminism is not just for young women professionals. It’s also about all women behind the bar. Jackson says that The Flowerhouse is about encouraging women from all walks of life to get into the Flowerhouse and the jobs. This includes flexible work hours for mothers, apprentice programs for young women, and reaching out to older women. Jackson hopes to open similar pubs for rural areas if all goes well. Jackson draws inspiration from her parents, who “live in a complex of flats where there are many single women in their 60s or 70s.” They aren’t completely retired and are active and friendly. They’d love a job that allows them to get to know others – this is a nice job that doesn’t involve stacking shelves.

The Rose & Crown is equally committed to expanding horizons in the area of people pubs serve and employ. Since reopening after refurbishment, they have hosted everything from first dates to large weddings, 80th birthdays and netball socials. Every Sunday, a group visits them for lunch before the drag night at Two Brewers on Clapham High Street. Savoy explains that they have made a deliberate effort to promote inclusivity. “There are paintings by a British African artist, Elton John shots on the wall, and a cocktail menu. We got a lot of flack, but we want that piece of the market. I did not want to change the pub’s name or structure. I wanted to preserve something that was here since 1870.