Beer Today publisher Darren Norbury also does some shifts behind the bar of his friend’s village pub. Here’s how his first ‘Freedom Day’ shift went…
I approached yesterday with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The previous Monday had been ridulsously busy, and I was running round like that proverbial blue-bottomed Diptera. Even though we only open from 4pm until 8pm on a Monday, I was knackered. Straight home, straight to bed, slept ten hours. Most unlike me.
So 19th July dawned, website and magazine work done, and to the pub nice and early to acquaint myself with the system. And it’s fairly simple. Instead of ordering from their table, customers come to the bar to order, wearing a mask, and take their drink back to a table, or out into the garden, after which the mask can come off.
We’re aware, by the way, that the need for a mask isn’t legally enforceable, but we’ve made it a house a rule. Pretty much everyone is happy with it. Two or three forgot masks, but they’ll be wearing them next time, I’m sure!
Here’s the key bit, though. Just that process of people coming to the bar and me pouring their drink while asking about their day immediately made the place more… Pubby. The atmosphere was great, I was able to chat with visitors more (the pub’s in the Good Beer Guide and they’re on what amounts to a a pilgrimage), and it took me until well into the evening to reach my daily step count, rather than about 5pm!
You can’t please all the people all the time, of course. There’s still a proprotion who would rather be sat at the bar. But we’re not ready for that yet while the covid levels are still so high. And there are a few who were sad to see the end of table service. “Very continental, I enjoyed it,” said one.
The government’s messaging may lack clarity, but for now, in our small village pub, there is a sense that we have taken a small, but careful step back to normality. And my pub experience, on both sides of the bar, will be the better for it.