For our 50th review, we wanted to review something a bit different. And Wharf Chambers is definitely that!
Hidden away on a side street behind the Minster with no signage is this workers’ co-operative that functions as a bar, café, live music venue and events space. You have to be a member to enter, but membership is open to (almost) all. The club has a strict “no bullies, no fascists” policy, and is successfully creating a safe and relaxed space for all kinds of people.
And all kinds of people is exactly what we saw. Wharf Chambers seems to attract all kinds of different people (although I suspect being lefties is something they all had in common), and we instantly felt welcome and comfortable in there. I get the feeling this works partly because there is a 48-hour period after you apply for membership before you can attend for the first time – this delay probably keeps potential gatecrashers at the door. There is nothing pretentious about Wharf Chambers: it really feels like it’s there to provide a service rather than to attract big-money hipsters. [Note: I love pretentiousness, but I can’t be dealing with it all the time.]
When we visited, the main bar had one real ale (from Pocklington’s self-professed “nanobrewery” Brass Castle) and a very large selection of Sam Smith’s bottled beers, including their excellent pale ale and a couple of fruit beers. The soft drink selection is immense too. Prices are quite reasonable – £2.80 for pint-sized bottles and £2.50 for smaller ones like the fruit beers.
No food is served right now, except during events, but they’re working on this: there are some legal hoops to jump through before they can start offering it. Tea and coffee are available and super-cheap (tea is 50p!) during the day and there’s free wi-fi for people who want to use it as a base.
There is a separate room for live music and other events, and a small beer garden at the back. People with progressive gender politics will also be pleased to know that the toilets make no assumptions whatsoever about gender. The only thing missing is some comfortable seating: there’s one sofa but the rest of the seating is wooden stools, which may make it a difficult environment for people with any physical disabilities. I’m going to guess they’re working on this too!
We really enjoyed Wharf Chambers, and if it wasn’t for the seating we could spend a very long time here. I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a comfortable, relaxed space with decent beer — especially if you find some other places seem to expect you to be someone you’re not.