As the Oxbrew brewery in Enstone no longer exists – it joined forces with Little Ox and now operates from Freeland as Little Ox Brew Co – it made sense for the Witney bar to be re-branded too. Owner Simon Scamp toyed with the idea of calling it Scamp’s before settling on Drummer’s Bar – but why?
“Because it’s my bar, and because I’m a drummer,” he explained. “We had lots of musicians playing before lockdown, and I used to join in.”
He was spending £700 a month on hiring bands back then, so that expense is a welcome saving although live music is clearly missed. Since re-opening in July business has been much better than anticipated, helped by having plenty of outside space. Simon admitted that a few days beforehand, he was ready to call it quits. Now he’s happy running the bar with the help of Owen Harrison.
“We had our best Saturday ever in September, but by the end of it everything was neat and tidy as people are behaving themselves and not turning up in droves,” he said. “Financially, I think the ‘New Normal’ is do-able. All I want is a decent pint, so I don’t mind the new safety measures. But I’ve got plans to do more off-sales with branded products, in case there’s another lockdown.”
The Witney bar – a former shop in a walkway from the car park by Waitrose – opened in 2018, and did well enough to secure a listing in the 2020 Good Beer Guide. It has become first port of call in Witney for people in search of more unusual beers, and at weekends it usually has two hand pumps and up to six keg taps (three are gluten-free) plus an interesting array of bottles and other locally produced drinks. Most beers are from independent local suppliers, but some come from further afield.
“I don’t buy on price, and when I buy from Siren Craft (near Reading), for example, I’m paying £30 or more per barrel than usual, but it sells so well,” said Simon. “Gluten-free is an important consideration here, and I’m looking at vegan beers too.
“Four days before lockdown ended I was thinking of retiring, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Many say this is their favourite bar in Witney, including some young people. But we don’t open too late, as then you just get the drunks in and they won’t behave.”
Opening hours are 5-9pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays; 12-10pm on Fridays and Saturdays; and 12-7pm on Sundays.