It’s the smartphone game that has swept the globe.
And now Sheffield businesses are feeling the effect of the Pokemon Go phenomenon – with one bar actually spending money in the game to attract customers.
The game, which allows players to catch virtual critters across real-world locations, uses a system of Pokestops to hand important items to players.
It has been downloaded more than 100 million times and is the most profitable game on the Apple store.
Many of the stops which are visited by players are pubs or are very close to pubs and bars – and they have definitely felt the boost. So I decided to go and see what all the fuss is about.
Smartphone in hand, myself, my mate Karl and girlfriend Lucy decide to head to Kelham Island as a crack Pokemon squad to try out the stops (and maybe a beer or two...).
Walking through Kelham on a Saturday night it’s clear Pokemon fever is in full swing. One man drives past me at the wheel of a van, playing as he turns the corner. Not advisable. Another three cars are parked up, engines on, phones plugged in on Ball Street Bridge with two or three people in each car, all with their phones out and trying to catch Pokemon.
Inside the nearby Kelham Wine Bar, the barmaid tells me the game has been a boon.
“We’ve definitely noticed the difference. When the game first came out, there were hundreds of people on the road outside, because there’s two Pokestops here.
“My manager puts down Lures in the game to bring in customers.”
Modern marketing, eh?
The bar boasts a range of cocktails as well as a lot of wine and some food nibbles.
Next stop is the Kelham Island Tavern, where we meet Paul, a 35-year-old who is catching Pokemon in the back room while his mates mock him.
“I play it for my kids,” he insists. “Only my phone will run it so it’s up to me to go out and catch things to bring it back to show them.”
One of Paul’s mates, a barrister who doesn’t want to be named, says that it may only be a matter of time until Pokemon Go is used as a defence.
“It’s already leading to witnesses. There was a case recently where a girl was out looking for Pokemon in the middle of the night and saw a serious crime and is now giving evidence in court.”
We mull that over with a pint of real ale, an Abbeydale Moonshine, which is brewed here in Sheffield. It’s strong, warm, and incredibly hard to drink for us, who are not real ale drinkers – but it’s probably delicious if that’s what you’re into. Then a fight breaks out in the beer garden, but it’s not clear if it’s about Pokemon.
We ship out to the Fat Cat, where Pokemon seem to be teeming. A Gastly appears in the front room before a Caterpie turns up in my beer.
The pub also has a range of real ales, as well as a delicious Bavarian lager called Flensburger and a top Swedish cider in bottles.
Finally, we head to The Riverside, which has a gym – so inbetween trying the amazing Weissbeers on offer here and the pints of Strawberry cider they have on draught, we work as a three to take down the Team Mystic gym and claim it for Valor.
We aren’t the only ones who had the idea. A series of Pokemon Go bar crawls are taking place in the city centre, with the most recent one starting at The Harley and taking in several city pubs.
Well, we’ve heard worse reasons to go for a drink.
FOLLOW THE TRAIL YOURSELF
1. Start off at Kelham Wine Bar on Ball Street. It’s got a great selection of drinks and food, with the handy bonus of being near to two very popular Pokestops and a host more on the walk to the next location.
2. Your next stops are just down the road. Heading down Ball Street towards Shalesmoor, you can pop into The Milestone for some top grub, or go left and try the Grind Café. Both are Pokestops with plenty to offer.
3. The next stop is The Fat Cat on Alma Street, a short walk down Green Lane (which has several more stops on the way). A popular pub for real ale drinkers with a cosy atmosphere and a beer garden.
4. Kelham Island Tavern is within spitting distance of The Fat Cat. The multi-award winning pub boasts a range of real ales and local brews, as well as a little beer garden of its own.
5. The Riverside or The Shakespeare
You can either go back down Alma Street towards the Riverside (via several stops) or cross over the A61 and find The Shakespeare. The former is a trendy bar, the latter a classic and character rich real ale pub.