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Secret Drinker reviews the Riverside Tavern in Strood

By Secret Drinker

Park on the road, head past the railway station and follow the path through the building site, turn right when you hear the music and head towards the seven foot high silver mirrored cats.

Some bizarre dream? No, you’re heading for another normal night in the Riverside Tavern in Strood.

The barmaid with the sunglasses on her head apologised for the building site that now surrounds the pub while the punters at the bar said they were sorry there were ‘no gays in and hadn’t been for weeks’.

Two giant shiny silver cats, to be found at the back of the pub
Two giant shiny silver cats, to be found at the back of the pub

If the glitzy felines on the pink elephant or the strange brick mantelpiece didn’t give it away then the locals apologising constantly will leave you in no doubt this is a gay bar.

Apparently the owner’s remortgaged his house to keep it going and hopes everyone will return once the developers finish their flats. I explained I didn’t mind about the builders or who was, or wasn’t, in, I just wanted a pint.

The only thing on offer in the beer line was 4.6% Maltsmiths IPA, which was a decent enough pint. My buddy opted for a Guinness and Mrs SD a large sauvignon – the round totalled £12.95. In fact, you can get a full English on a Saturday morning for £3.95, so it won’t break the bank.

On its website, the pub labels itself Kent's premier gay and lesbian bar
On its website, the pub labels itself Kent's premier gay and lesbian bar

Topics at the bar had moved on to Jude Law’s appearance in the pub when he made Black Sea in 2013 and the visit of Napoleon III. I can’t vouch for the latter, but the dirty great Russian sub outside makes me think claim one might be true.

My new friend’s apologies for not being gay but autistic instead, didn’t concern me in the slightest but I was worried by his Wolf’s Head & Vixen sweatshirt – I explained gothic-influenced Morris dancers do concern me.

I understand the owner's desire to make money and I'm aware he’s looking for compensation at losing trade thanks to the building site, but having as many bar staff on as you’ve got punters in will never make financial sense.

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A view of the Riverside Tavern in the distance through the railings surrounding the building site
A view of the Riverside Tavern in the distance through the railings surrounding the building site

They’re trying with special nights and offers such as the Big Fat Wednesday Quiz and two mains for a tenner, but it may take more than this to turn the fortunes of the pub around.

There’s a pool table, two fruities, a large amount of outdoor space and music pumped outside but presently you’d only really visit for the novelty value.

True, the gents are clean and fresh with a vending machine offering plenty of Horn Star energy supplements, there’s also lots of leather-look furniture and chatty locals but I’m worried there won’t be enough to keep this one afloat as long as the sub, or even until the building work’s finished, sorry.

A view of the riverbank from the pub’s outside seating area
A view of the riverbank from the pub’s outside seating area

You can follow Secret Drinker on twitter here

The Secret Drinker at the Riverside Tavern
The Secret Drinker at the Riverside Tavern

Read last week's column here.

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