On my most recent trip to Edinburgh I was sad to see that the Hibs theme pub, The Cabbage and Ribs on Albert Street had closed down once more. Perhaps this time the shutters will indicate that this situation is a terminal one. Formerly a fairly undistinguished public house known as The Clan Tavern, ‘The Cabbage’ always seemed to polarise the views of Hibs supporters with some loving its match day atmosphere and other decrying the quality of the beer and service.
The very first time I visited the Cabbage for a pint or three pre-game I loved the place. I had just dashed up the A1 from Nottingham and was dropped almost breathlessly out of the car on a Saturday lunchtime in time for a drink before the Hibs game. The opportunity to gaze at the images of past heroes on the walls whilst listening to a few Hibs ditties played over the sound system seemed a pretty decent concept to me, I made my mind up to spend more time there for future games rather than my long-established former routine of taking a drink at the Guildford Arms and hotfooting it down London Road at a quarter to three.
Around that time too I met for the first time many Internet Hibbies in the Cabbage who have gone on to become firm friends so perhaps I have a few kind memories of the pub. That aside, I like many others, didn’t find the same satisfaction in going there of late, why is this? Many complain about the aforementioned poor quality service and beer or the crowds that can mean a long wait for a thirsty fan on match day and whilst they are valid criticisms I think there was more than that to it.
A first visit to such a theme pub can be a haven of memorabilia and interest. Can you remember the first time you entered a Hard Rock Café for instance? Being close to an Eric Clapton Stratocaster or ‘Madge’s’ coned bra! I as a distant fan visiting the Cabbage particularly lapped up the pictures of the faces that I remembered from long past seasons. ‘Onion’ ‘Mickey George Best and all the others – the memories came flooding back. I couldn’t take my eyes off the images of the Five and in particular Gordon Smith, those old photographs seemed so animated and still do, so in principle I think the Cabbage and Ribs is a fine idea, but of course there are problems. One of those problems might be the pure over-familiarity that people have of the place and what it has to offer. There are after all only so many times one can stand glass in hand, daydreaming of the past whilst looking at a picture of dear Paddy Stanton staring down from the walls wearing the famous green jersey with white sleeves.
I can’t help but think that the true setting for such a pub is actually within the football ground itself and under the management of the club. Before you shudder at such a thought think of the benefits. Of late there has been energy given to offering the fan and the general public an opportunity to view parts of Hibernian’s past history. Some hard working and dedicated people have created an exhibition celebrating the late Gordon Smith for example. We all know that there is a lot of memorabilia out there, not only held by the club but by us the fans that isn’t available for public viewing, in the club’s case due to lack of space and staff to undertake the job one might assume.
Imagine if space could be found at Easter Road for a licensed bar that contained a large museum about Hibs and perhaps Scottish football in general. Think if it was spacious enough to accept and serve a large quantity of customers on a match day (which the Cabbage and Ribs clearly isn’t at times). In some ways it was difficult for a public house such as the Albert Street hostelry to get things right. Like many other Easter Road area pubs, the clientele swells hugely on match days but on a cold non-match day Monday night in February sees only a small handful of drinkers so there is inevitably a logistical problem with staffing. It could be that the football club, just as they do in the current ‘Behind The Goals’ bar would be in a good position to temper this problem by hiring the necessary extra staff for match days.
I know of no other football theme pub such as the Cabbage and Ribs. Maybe the nearest and only comparison would be the North American sports bars scattered around liberally on that continent. Perhaps this is more than coincidental when viewing the problems that the Cabbage appeared to have, to the point of the establishment being put up for sale a while back being under new management and now sadly closed. I stand by the sentiments earlier though and I really do hope the place is reborn, whether that be on Albert Street, or in another guise and geographical location I don’t mind. I say this as those artifacts displayed there need to be seen, they are the glue that binds generations of Hibs fans together. What’s more they do your heart good to see them.