See below for a list of pubs we know to be trading outdoors
The gods have been kind to pubs, after punishing them so badly since that black day in March last year when they were first forced to close by the pandemic. After the shock of early morning snowfall on re-opening day outdoors, Monday April 12, the sun has shone almost constantly with hardly a drop of rain and many pubs have been very busy.
Many pubs prepared well. The marquees and large parasols have gone up, the mulch and artificial turf has been laid and the pot plants put in place, the patio heaters have roared into life (when needed), and the finishing touches have been made to all kinds of outside space. Local pubs have shown their determination to come back to life and responded very positively since outdoor trading resumed.
With more pubs re-opening since then, I have revised my earlier predictions that up to half of our pubs could re-open. I now think the total could be nearer two-thirds, with no fewer than 15 pubs open in Abingdon alone and only four remaining closed, these including Wetherspoon pub the Narrows. Whatever the figure, it’s significantly above the 40% that the British Beer and Pub Association predicted would re-open across the country.
That’s partly because a lot of our pubs have gardens or car parks that can be used, and partly because the city council, for one, has been very pro-active allowing pavement seating and closing some minor roads to traffic. George Street in Oxford will be closed again at some point, allowing more pubs to have outside space, but there are still a significant number in the city remaining closed until at least May 17 when indoor trading is due to resume.
Outside space not only allows pubs to trade prior to May 17, but also gives them a sometimes much needed increase in capacity when many people could prefer to stay outside for some time to come. The Bear Inn in Oxford, for example, has outside space for 95 people whereas indoor seating, even when packed, can’t be much more than about 30. It’s had this outdoor space for quite some time, whereas for city pubs like the Plough at 38, with tables on Cornmarket Street and around the corner on St Michael’s Street, outdoor space was a new feature last summer. Another pub I visited on re-opening day, the Rose & Crown in North Oxford, has gained two outdoor tables for six following closure of North Parade Avenue to traffic, to add to its rear patio with retractable roof.
But let’s also remember the “have nots” – city pubs such as the Royal Blenheim, St Aldates Tavern, Castle Inn, Fir Tree and Half Moon which have no outdoor space and must wait at least until May 17 to re-open. Even then all pubs will face social distancing restrictions and reduced capacity for indoor trading, and can only hope that the longed-for end of all restrictions becomes a reality as planned on June 21.
Some pubs have been very creative with their outside space, examples including the White House on Abingdon Road, now run by Tap Social, which has erected a marquee over part of the former car park and decked out the tables and seats in bright colours. The White Hart in Wytham, a mainly dining pub owned by Wadworth in a village just outside Oxford, has erected a plastic shelter high above table level and created individual dining pods, meaning a big increase in capacity when indoor service resumes. And some pubs which I never knew had gardens have really burst into life – the Star in Rectory Road, East Oxford for example, which must have outdoor space for around 100.
Some people are still put off by the restrictions – table service only, the wearing of masks when not seated and mandatory NHS Track and Trace details for all – but most drinkers appreciate that pubs need their custom even if the experience on offer is rather different. But if there has been a downside for drinkers – apart from the many pubs that have remained closed – it is that the beer range has been much reduced in most, but not all of them.
Pubs simply didn’t know what level of trade to expect, and were mindful of the five million gallons of real ale that had to be poured away over the last year. Sometimes only one real ale is available – often from a brewery’s core range or the ubiquitous Doom Bar – and one Good Beer Guide listed pub in Oxford city centre had completely run out of real ale one night when I visited. Pubs couldn’t have predicted that the good weather would tempt so many people out, and even now they must be wary of over-ordering. But some have continued with their full range, including guest beers which have been restricted in many pubs.
The plight of independent breweries, which have not qualified for the same degree of financial support during the pandemic, has received much less publicity than the outlook for pubs. Many were able to switch to delivery and mail order to make up a little of the shortfall, while others pretty well closed down for the duration. It’s interesting to hear how one of our local brewers, XT, has coped.
Director Russ Taylor said: “By the beginning of April we were seeing quite a few pubs ordering beers, although many have decided to hold out until May for the next stage of restrictions easing. Hopefully these next few weeks will see a gradual increase in pub business as people get out and about more, as it was heart breaking to have to pour away many casks of beer that we were unable to sell earlier this year.
“It’s certainly good to see various festivals are planning to operate this summer, as for many it was back in 2019 when we last enjoyed a beer in marquee. I am looking forward to Haddenham Summer Fest and Thame Music Festivals in July plus London Craft, BrewLDN and others in the coming months, plus of course the Big Oxford Beer Bash on September 18. Let’s hope the vaccine does its work and we can indeed look forward to these events.
“Remember – your pub needs you. Drink-out to Help-out!
Pubs we know to be open
The following list is incomplete, so if you know of a pub in our branch area that is open and trading outdoors, please email email@example.com Please note that many pubs that are open have limited trading hours, which may be at weekends only, so it is advisable to check. Advance booking is available at many pubs although, in a few cases, this is limited to dining. Some pubs that are not open may offer takeaway.
Oxford city centre
Bear Inn, Chequers, Crown, Head of the River, Jolly Farmers, Old Tom, Plough at 38, Swan & Castle, Three Goats Heads, Turf Tavern, White Rabbit.
Anchor, Dew Drop, Gardeners Arms (Plantation Road), Harcourt Arms, Jericho Tavern, Jude the Obscure, Rose & Crown, Victoria.
Ampleforth, Butchers Arms, Corner House, Masons Arms, Red Lion, Tile Shop Ale House, Victoria Arms, Up in Arms, White Hart, White Horse.
Angel and Greyhound, Port Mahon, Old Black Horse, Star.
Big Society, Black Swan, BrewDog, Chester, Cricketer’s Arms (Cowley), Isis Farmhouse, James Street Tavern, Jolly Postboys, Library, Magdalen Arms, Prince of Wales (Cowley), Prince of Wales (Iffley), Tree Hotel, Rusty Bicycle.
Fishes, Perch, Punter, Seacourt Bridge, Tap Social taproom.
White House, Duke of Monmouth.
Jacob’s Inn, Plough, Trout, White Hart.
Black Swan, Blue Boar, Boundary House, Brewery Tap, Broad Face, Crown & Thistle, Grapes, King’s Head and Bell, Loose Cannon taproom, Nag’s Head, Old Anchor, Spread Eagle, White Horse.
Black Bull, Highwayman, Jolly Boatman, King’s Arms, Six Bells.
Angel, Elm Tree, Fleece, New Inn, Plough, Three Horseshoes, Three Pigeons.
Evenlode; Queen’s Head, Red Lion.
Golden Eagle, Siege of Orleans.
Villages (in no particular order, some outside our branch)
Prince of Wales, Shippon; Flowing Well, Sunningwell, Fox Inn, Boars Hill; Greyhound, Besselsleigh; Red Lion, Northmoor; Maybush, Newbridge; Rose Revived, Newbridge; White Hart, Wytham; White House, Bladon; Abingdon Arms, Beckley; Boat Inn, Thrupp; Cricketers Arms, Littleworth; Red Lion, Islip; Railway Inn, Culham; Nut Tree, Murcott; King and Queen, Wheatley; Queen’s Head, Horspath; Seven Stars, Marsh Baldon; Tandem, Kennington; King’s Arms, Sandford; Bear and Ragged Staff, Cumnor; Clanfield Tavern, Clanfield; Swan, Radcot; Five Alls, Filkins; Ferryman, Bablock Hythe; Harcourt Arms, Stanton Harcourt; Horseshoe, Bampton; Morris Clown, Bampton; Talbot Hotel, Bampton; Plough, Kelmscott; Bell, Langford; Plough, Alvescot; Chequers, Brize Norton; Mason’s Arms, Brize Norton; Bell, Ducklington; Red Lion, Cassington; Chequers, Cassington; Red Lion, Yarnton.
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