Third time lucky…… this is the third attempt at writing this article. Okay, in fairness, the first attempt was before the country went into lockdown. Like, just before. Annoyingly it was also one of the only times I’ve ever beaten a deadline. Maybe I’ll get editor Dave Richardson to run that article anyway, and we can all have a good laugh at my woefully inaccurate predictions for how we would cope with the oncoming Covid storm.
I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say I painted a picture of plucky Brits just getting on with it, washing our hands, catching the germs in our handkerchiefs (that’ll date some of you) and having a nice pint while waiting for it all to blow over. About a week later we had to shut all the pub doors for the next fourteen weeks. Bloody Nostradamus me.
But pubs are open again, and after a bit of a brief failed experiment at leaving it up to landlords to be sensible and keep everything running in a safe fashion, the Government has imposed the new 10pm curfew and the rule of six. Which is like the old rule of six, but actually just meaning six people. Not six people divided by the number of households and multiplied by the number of bubbles they all have, or something. To be fair to landlords everywhere, they didn’t exactly make things clear.
In fact everything was left so vague it’s not really a surprise the new rules had to turn up. With masks for everyone, table service only and a hearty “Get out of my pub at 10!”
(This paragraph is for landlords only: Be honest, takings are down, futures are looking shaky, we’ve probably all had to let staff go and closing at 10pm isn’t making the chances of buying a gold bike very likely in the near future. But admit it, just between us, when the front door is locked, the floors swept and the other night jobs done, it’s still early enough to think, “Yes, there’s every chance I’m gonna be going out of business if they don’t get a vaccine pretty soon, but I’ve got time to binge-watch a couple of extra Netflix episodes before bed!”)
Right, welcome back everyone else. Welcome to the new normal.
Only we should probably call it the new new normal, or the new new new normal. To be clear, the normal we have now was not the same normal we had when I started writing this article, and that’s not just down to my uncanny ability to take a bit longer to write this than Dave would like (sorry Dave). I mean, if you happen to be reading this in certain parts of the country, you’re in a new new new new normal as of today (which was the October 1 as I write). But that’s elsewhere and I’m drifting off the point.
When I’ve banged on about the importance of the pub, and the role of the pub, and its benefits, the purpose has always been to encourage people to come and drink. For their good, and also, let me be clear, for the good of the pub. It was the public for the public house.
It is not so easy now, because just telling people the benefits of pubs with the aim of encouraging custom feels disingenuous. Quite frankly the decision to go to the pub shouldn’t be taken lightly anymore. Without getting heavy, you might come away with more than just a hangover.
So now the roles are kinda reversed. It’s the public house for the public. The emphasis, first and foremost, is for the public house to create an environment that is as safe as possible for those who want to come and have a drink. This has to be prioritised even before the beer. Wait, hear me out. After all, what’s the point of good beer if it comes with a Covid chaser?
Before all this came down, I proudly had a good range of real ale that I kept well. But that’s impossible now. The demand is not there to keep four ales in good nick. Or, more precisely, the demand might well still be there, but there is no actual way to supply four ales, in good nick, without putting everyone at risk by doing so.
This article really is about how the pub has to adapt, not just to survive, although that’s pretty high on the list, but to be a house for the public to be safe in. Otherwise what’s the point? Who really wants to be drinking somewhere which doesn’t give a rat’s fart about its customers?
I still want everyone who comes to my pub to reap all the genuine benefits of pub going. I am also going to turn you away if letting you in is going to contravene regulations. (For those unsure of these benefits, please email Dave who I’m sure will be only too happy to digitise all my previous ramblings and email them straight back to you).
At this point let me take this opportunity to say, “Book early to avoid disappointment” using our new and quite swanky online booking form. See our website for more details.
So what does the View From The Bar look like these days? A little clearer due to the lack of those pesky beer pumps. And definitely less cluttered with all the customers sitting patiently waiting for table service. But essentially it still looks like the pub. Only you need a face mask, you need an NHS Track and Trace app and a QR code to scan, you’ll need to wait to be seated and you’ll order from the table and be prepared for the heart stopping shock of last orders at 9.30pm.
And if all that’s a problem to you, then maybe the pub just isn’t for you right now. Because we’re not doing this to annoy you, we’re doing this because the House for the Public is responsible for the public’s safety now.
This is not a sprint, it’s the long haul. By the time all this is over the old normal is going to seem shockingly strange. But just remember, if the pub experience isn’t quite what you want, that you should make the most of it. Be grateful for a clean table, rapid serving staff, and a decent distance between you and the next table. And a good beer.