Views from the bar
Katie Mather dreams of a more appreciative, respectful post-Covid pub culture
Tuesday 04 August 2020
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The pubs are closed, nobody knows when we’ll be allowed to hug our friends again and the shops are hellish labyrinths filled with facemaskless minotaurs. I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough to find things to be positive about lately.
But while the country waits impatiently for opening time, quietly braced for the worst, I’ve been thinking about what might have changed for me as a punter and a pint-puller. Thankfully, some things might have even changed for the better.
The continued support of indie breweries
I’ve never drank more beer at home than I have over the past few months. I usually do my drinking socially, at the pub, but I’ve got used to having conveniently home-delivered cans chilling in the fridge between the bags of salad and half-finished tubs of guacamole. It turns out that quite a lot of people have become accustomed to living this way too.
Being able to order beers from independent breweries from further afield has been exciting (there’s not been much else going on, let’s face it). But it’s also shown me that I don’t have to venture into a city to enjoy beers I’d get excited about if I saw them at the pub. I’ve realised that I deserve to have a stash of delicious beers at home too, ready for whenever the mood takes me. And it’s also shown me that independent shops, bars and online beer providers of all kinds have better selections and are just as efficient, if not more so, at delivering beers than their supermarket counterparts.
2m or 1m or even just a Little Bit of Personal Space, as a treat
Busy pubs aren’t really my thing. I’m happy for the landlord of my local when more people show up than can actually fit inside, but that’s usually my cue to leave. I don’t like it when I’m physically pushed against someone at the bar by someone else trying to squeeze past. It’s not nice.
Social distancing might not be feasible in pubs, the worry being that many will be forced to close for longer, which comes with its own set of financial and logistical nightmares. This means that different measures might need to be taken instead – hand gel stations and mandatory mask wearing – and hopefully this will enable pubs to open again. But I’m happy to believe in my little fantasy that even if social distancing in pubs gets scrapped as a bad idea, months of social distancing might have taught people how to respect each other’s personal space.
I am absolutely psyched that people might have unlearned their handsy habits while they’ve been at home on lockdown.
While the residual paranoia of not wanting to touch anything due to a deadly virus is a sad and negative thing, one positive to draw from it could be that perhaps men will stop grabbing my arm over the bar while they order, or touching my hips as they “get past”, or stop people from trying to hug me because they like my t-shirt.
I also now have a legitimate reason to refuse to shake someone’s hand because they are drunk and “agree to disagree” with whatever political view I have that they’ve been devil's-advocating for the past half hour.
I have always been funny about hand-washing. I wash my hands a lot, and even before the COVID-19 outbreak I thought about germs and viruses quite often. Since I’m anxious about my health, it comes with the territory.
One thing I am jazzed about once the pubs open again is that people will have washed their hands recently before engaging in transactions with me! Read that again. How grim is that? I’m excited that people are more likely to wash their hands after going for a piss now than they were before.
As a customer and as a member of bar staff, I’m just excited to be surrounded by clean-handed people. It just seems like a nicer way to live.
Contactless and card payments
I totally agree that contactless isn’t suitable for everyone. I only managed to get a contactless card myself a couple of years ago, because my credit score at the time was so low my bank account wouldn’t allow it.
However, the increasing need for contactless during the lockdown means that more places than before are accepting card payments. For me as a bar person and an inefficient counter, that means full transparency. Did I make a mistake? Am I being duped? The machine will tell me in an instant, and all I’ll need to do is show the transaction on the screen. When we had a cash only bar, that absolutely wasn’t the case.
I will miss tips though.
Pubs and bars have had to work hard to adapt to provide take-out beers over lockdown. While it hasn’t been easy to instigate, now take-out has become more like second-nature I’m really hoping this will continue even once pubs are open.
Being able to buy cask ale to take home has been a revelation to me, and it’s especially great to be able to walk to my local pub and grab a few decent cans to enjoy in my garden/at the park/on the train. Of course I miss sitting in and drinking proper pints from proper glassware, but the fact there is another option now is a huge positive for me. Some days I want a pint but I just don’t feel like I can sit in a pub. Now I don’t have to.
I am hoping with every cell in my body that people remember how much they missed their locals throughout the weirdest months of 2020. I’m hoping that when we can welcome people into the pub again, that they’ll be happy to see their favourite beers on tap, and thrilled to see their pubmates again; that this will mean they visit, and visit often.
I’m also hoping that we’ll all remember which pubs we longed to sit inside and while away the hours with a book and a beer, and the bars we missed propping up while we chatted with friends on either side. I’m hoping this will live on in our minds as a time we were sadly without, and remind us that nothing, not even our solid local pub, can be taken for granted.
I know of plenty of pubs, bars and restaurants that have sadly closed their doors forever during lockdown. I know that despite the work being done by pub associations, CAMRA and local community groups there will be more closing in the near future. My main hope from all of this is that we realise our money is the main thing standing between our favourite pubs and the long closing time. That we have the power to save them.
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