It is day one million and three since the pubs shut their doors. I’m not even exaggerating it has definitely been that long (I have the emotional scars). The last few establishments I visited was way, way, back on the 17th March, for the annual St Patricks Day jaunt I go on every year with some Irish friends. The Pandemic was yet to fully engulf the Country in full lockdown (that hit in full on the 23rd) and it was only advisory not to go to the pubs. The general unease and quietness of every place we visited made for a short day (even the notoriously busy O’Neil’s was dead as the dodo) but we went, hand sanitizer in hand, (as it were), donning silly oversized Guinness hats and stupid fake beards, this was to be my last pub visit. We sat in the Royal Children pub after being out a few hours and called it a day, the atmosphere was teetering on the eerie it was that quiet.
Even thinking back to then, it seems like a lifetime ago. People either seem to have embraced their new life by becoming the next Joe Wicks, or quite the opposite of aiming for the potato body shape and eating a packet of cookies for breakfast (no guessing which path I took). After a token bike ride out one day from Trent Lock along the river I was walking bike in hand past the Beeston Marina when a sight caught my eye. A plastic pint glass filled with amber liquid. My heart quickened as I franticly looked around, to be confronted by the sight of another in the hands of a man with the biggest smile I have ever seen. Lo and behold, at the entrance to the pub was a table and they were serving pints, it wasn’t a mirage.
“For those who have worked, the thought of catching up with friends over a drink or meal is all that has kept us going.”
A man queued in front of me and said as soon as he heard, he came down. Keeping a 2m distance, I waited as he was served. When my time came I headed to the table and ordered a Fosters, £3 a pint jobs a good un. I asked the lady how long they were doing this and she said that it depended if people were sensible and took their beer and went. I received my goods and walked further down the river finding a spot away from everyone and I can tell you right now that was the best pint I have ever had. In some ways, it was a cruel mirage, a taste of the life we had, but for 20 minutes the world felt normal again. We took so much for granted. For those who have worked, the thought of catching up with friends over a drink or meal is all that has kept us going.
The dream of spending a few hours talking rubbish with long lost friends without a care in the world seemed such a far off idea, and then lo and behold B.J announced on the 23rd of June that pubs and restaurants could open from July 4th, a day that should be now known as IndePubnance day! However, the venues must take strict precautions. Rescue Rooms in Nottingham is operating a booking system, based on 2.5-hour slots, staggered entry time, ordering drinks and food on an app, face masks when not at the table, household only tables, hand sanitizer and strict 2m distancing, one way systems and, COVID-19 compliance checks. Now doesn’t that sound like a barrel of laughs?
Many of the pubs I spoke to were hanging onto the announcement to put ideas into action. With the clock ticking many are planning like there’s no tomorrow, the lovely Berliner, however, got back to me to say this:
“We’re opening on the 4th with an extended beer garden, and revised opening hours (TBC). Our extended beer garden gives us a large open space, with different zones to aid social distancing protocols, and we have gazebos in case of rain! We’ll be serving a new food menu and we will be offering live music at 7 pm – 10 pm every Saturday”.
Fabulous, I shall have an Espresso Martini in no time! All I can say is best of luck to every pub and bar. Some will find things easier than others due to layouts and space etc.
Next issue could quite possibly be me attempting a pub visit!