Ladies call time on lads' pubs

"SO WHERE'S the pool table then," said one lad as he looked around the pub designed by women for women.

The pub's owner, the drinks giant Allied Domecq, asked its women employees to create their idea of a perfect place for a woman to have a drink on her own without feeling intimidated. After two years of planning, the Wharf Street pub, in Wellington Street, Leeds, once a place for hard- drinking men, is now a female den.

"It's a bit lighter and more open,'' said Damien Hawke, 21, a student. "But I don't like the idea of women isolating themselves, sitting together in their own little cells."

But would a woman on her own feel comfortable enough to drop in at Wharf Street and order a drink?

"I don't usually go anywhere on my own," said Emily Parry, 18, an office worker from Leeds. "Normally I would wait outside a pub for my friends before going in but I suppose I wouldn't feel uncomfortable waiting on my own in here. It's friendly enough, nice and bright, peaceful with a nice atmosphere."

Her friend Carolyn Kelly, 25, said she didn't think it was a lads' pub. "The decor is just too nice. I could bring my mum here and she doesn't like pubs."

Sharon Rice, 37, a police officer from Sheffield, said the pub didn't seem a place for posers or a bar for the lads.

"I am quite used to going into a place on my own, that wouldn't bother me, but I just hope the prices aren't too high that they exclude ordinary working-class women."

"Having women's magazines is a nice idea," said Sarah Coyne, 26, a project controller with a finance company. "If you're on your own you could flip through a mag and not feel awkward. "

How does the landlord, Jason Argyle, 29, welcome a woman on her own?

"By making her feel she's not on her own but part of the party. The trick is not to make her feel different because she is alone. How we do that is our little secret."

But there is no intention to ignore men, says Allied Domecq. "Pubs can be intimidating places for women but we have tried to design out the elements which traditionally put them off.

"We wanted to offer women a pub environment in which they felt welcome, comfortable and above all safe.

"The windows are bigger than in most pubs so people can see what's going on inside, the lighting is very good, there is waiter service so women don't have to join the scrum at the bar and there are decent toilets.

"The place is bright and open, the decor warm and friendly. There are chairs with backs so people feel they are protected - and the staff have been trained to make everyone feel welcome.''

Christopher Bates, a 20-year-old geography student, had just one complaint.

"The waiter service makes a difference," he said, "but one of the best ways of meeting a woman is rubbing shoulders when you're ordering drinks at the bar."

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