It’s been a hard time for pubs in England.
After closing the door for several months in accordance with public health measures, several companies closed within a few days after getting the green light to allow customers at their door again.
Pubs in Somerset, West Yorkshire and Hampshire closed shortly after reopening on July 4 when a customer or staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
Because they are now asked to take customer contact information and record their arrival time, the pub can immediately start tracking contracts, according to media reports, and so far avoiding larger outbreaks.
Cramming into a pub after work – shoulder to shoulder with colleagues – is the key to cultural and community ties in the UK
But now, government guidelines only allow table service – not bending over the bar during football matches or post-work pints.
Pandemic has inspired pub owners to be creative in the way they serve customers, leaving busy debauchery to the side while business is gradually in progress.
A new way with old-fashioned business
Baz and Jo Butcher owned the White Hart in Wytham outside Oxford, a classic Cotswold stone pub that has existed since the 16th century.
The courtyard garden is now home to individual dining pods enclosed on three sides with a Plexiglas roof and adorned with flowers and twinkling lights.
“The idea is they should look like little gypsy mini caravans,” Jo Butcher said. “They are really safe and the food is far away.”
“So far they have been a huge success. We have a large waiting list of people who want to order before we are even allowed to open the pub again. We have 10 pods in the yard and they look very pretty.”
Closing in March is difficult for Baz Butcher. “But we are part of a small village community, and as a pub landlord, it is my duty and love, truly, to ensure that our local community is well,” he said.
“But we then said, ‘Look, how can we help the villagers, many of whom are old and locked up?’ So we spend the best part of two and a half months delivering fast food to our community. “
Jennifer Left owns the Hand in Hand Brew Pub in Brighton, England, a traditional bar in the backstreet district which she describes as “a place where you can go and you will walk out with ten new friends.”
“We have jazz every Sunday … and it gets crowded like a sweat box. Although it’s very small, we can get six musicians put in the corner next to the piano.”
In the early days of the COVID crisis, he simply reduced the amount, asking some older retired customers who relied on the pub for social connections to come during the day and not later at night.
“I have to limit customers, ranging from, ordinary bunches of 50 drunken pirates to only 15.”
When he had to close the pub on March 21, he “went upstairs and cried a little.”
“Five years I’ve had it, and all the time I’ve known it historically, because I worked there before I bought a pub since 2007, I never knew it would close, never. I mean, I’ve been working every Christmas; even on our wedding day the pub is not closed. “
But after exploring several options, including buying an old milk van or ice cream truck to deliver beer – which proved too expensive – he set it up at the door and sold beer and kombucha brought home in milk cartons. Soon he had to bring back some of his workers who were on leave to follow him.
The pub was permitted to reopen July 4, but given the size of the pub, Left had gone off in a different direction, renting a small parking lot across the street and setting up a “small beer garden, basically.”
He and his staff wear masks and gloves, and the table is cleaned with extra perseverance. “We sit customers at a safe distance,” said Kiri.
Then, in accordance with public health guidelines for contact tracing, they take customer names and numbers, which are stored in a secure database that is automatically deleted after 21 days.
Kiri says customers are happy the pub is pulling more beer, even with new restrictions.
“They like to see things open again and they are happy. That is what most people want is to drink a glass of beer from a glass. And not a can. Not a milk carton.”
Written by Brandie Weikle. Produced by Rachel Levy-Mclaughlin.
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