Saturday, 10 April 2021

Draught Beer for the Hardy

 Well the big day arrives in less than forty-eight hours. Pubs will be able to resume outdoor selling of alcoholic drinks, though with the kind of weather expected, hot toddies or blobs might be a better bet than pints of chilled amber nectar - or indeed, non-chilled pints of cask ale. Only 14,000 or so pubs will open after a fashion and while many are booked to the seams - if an outdoor drinking area can be said to have seams  - one has to wonder how convivial such an outing will be, even if the weather stays dry. Fine of course if we have warm sunshine and/or a bit of shelter from the chilly spring winds, but that is a very debatable point. One has to wonder too if the bookings will remain as firm when faced with the reality of English Spring weather, as they were when reserved in optimism. I'm not so sure that they will.

Of course, we read too, that many of the outdoor venues aren't looking as Covid secure as they might be - though admittedly the chances of catching anything outdoors are minimal. This has been pointed out photographically on Twitter, and it does remain a concern of a kind.  I note too on Twitter that some local authorities are making up the rules of this new game as they go along, which most certainly isn't helpful. Light touch on rule interpretation seems to be beyond most Local Authorities' understanding of their role in life. It may just be chauvinism, but as a  career civil servant, funnily, we used to always be told to find ways of doing something positive. In fact one of the organizations I worked for had "Bias for Action" as one of its core values. That rarely seems to apply in the case of our local friends, but enough of my prejudices.

Another worry I have is the effect lockdown has had on peoples attitudes to spending money. We have rather become accustomed to not spending much, so perhaps paying pub prices again will be a shock to the system, especially if that dubious pleasure is accompanied by a freezing and howling gale.  This of course will apply to the longer term too, and it is to be hoped that we'll soon get used to forking up an amount for beer in an afternoon or evening, what we previously spent in a week or more at home.  Of course that will be mitigated if your home drinking has consisted of exotic DIPAs and Imperial whatevers, but for the bread and butter customer of most pubs, that won't be the case.

We have five weeks from this partial re-opening of pubs, and then we will be permitted inside, albeit with restrictions and table service. Another five weeks if that and then, hopefully we'll be free. Or will we? The future is still slightly uncertain and depends on the virus being curtailed to a minimum, while vaccinations are pushed to a maximum Talk of Covid passports continues to muddy the water and cause division and is likely to continue to provoke concerns for some time.  

Of course, I am glad that there is a start to relieving the stranglehold the Government has put on pubs and I do hope it all works. I do hope too that at least some pubs can make some money from this. My eye though is firmly on the main prize, hopefully in June, when we can all go where we want, with the minimum of restrictions.  So, only one muffled cheer from me.

Last night, with my heaviest coat on, I had a bottle of beer in the sun in my garden.  It was pleasant. But it was a big coat. Wouldn't want to walk to the pub wearing it. But I will give the great outdoor experiment a go.

I am also concerned that when pubs re-open, it won't be long until full rent is resumed. That might well see a rash of pubs failing then, as may also happen when furlough ends. There is no doubt other pitfalls along this rocky road too.


ShadowHider said...

Shall be testing this idea on Tuesday afternoon in The Healey.

Well not actually in it, but in the marquee at the rear over the boules piste.

Even looking forward to a pint of Robbie's.

Curmudgeon said...

As I've said, the assessment of this period will very much depend on what the end of the story is.

If the restrictions are pretty much entirely lifted in June as promised, then hopefully pubs can enjoy a good late summer and autumn and it will all begin to fade away like a bad dream.

But if the restrictions persist through the year, then we are likely to see a lot more go to the wall as they simply won't be viable.

Fred said...

I worry as to how my body will cope. I don't drink at home and don't eat in the pub. Hence, I last went into a pub on Saturday 24 October 2012 - we were in Tier 2 by the following Saturday - and that is also the last day that I consumed alcohol.

I have only been out twice in the interim - 'flu jab and COVID first jab. Hence, supporting my local next week will see me begin to inch towards normality, which must be good.

I just wonder whether the uncertainty might tempt some pubs to give cask beer a wide berth until they are confident that there is enough demand to sell it.

Tandleman said...

Fred. October 2012?

Tandleman said...

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retiredmartin said...

Good points all, Peter. I hope for the best, and the sun usually follows me around.

I'll be straight out of the traps on Monday, beer in Sheffield then over to Manchester for a haircut from the lad and a pint. I'll probably try Sinclairs, why not?

Enjoy your beer.

Andy Cooper said...

I am less daunted by the weather - Billy Connoly once said there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing - and I do have a set of superb Norwegian thermals. What worries me is the odd unscrupulous landlord who's going to tap a cask that's been in his or her cellar since the lockdown started. It was done locally last time round so I wont be visiting that establishment in a rush!

Fred said...

> last went into a pub on Saturday 24 October 2012

2020 ; that's what an absence of cask ale does to the body and brain. Having said that, it feels like a lifetime ago !

Curmudgeon said...

@Andy Cooper - if it was a cask of Old Tom or Vintage Harvest Ale that might not be a bad thing :-)

And might be appropriate for the weather that is forecast for next week.

Cooking Lager said...

After the initial excitement I suspect the demand for drinking outside in the cold and wet will be exactly what it always was.

Outside drinking was always a supplementary business to those with outdoor space, not the main trade. I guess it's more about goodwill to open than making an operational profit.

May and June will be the dates to note. How much appetite there is for restricted pubs then presumably back to normal pubs (we hope).

Those expecting lots of pent up demand maybe haven't noticed the degree to which covid regulations are largely ignored. Private house gatherings are common and ignored unless they get rowdy. Those wanting to see their friends are already doing so and are not waiting for the government to okay it or pubs to open.

Of my local pubs, one has a large enough outdoor space so I'll keep my eye on it. The outdoor trade was always good in good weather.

I ran into a local barber that is expecting queues around the block and is planning to open late for a week. Be interesting to see how his shop returns to the regular pattern.

Many businesses may get an in initial rush but the real question comes when pondering what kind of normal will return.

A normal where people have got used to private house gatherings with cheaper packaged drink or a normal where people starved of human contact from remote working practices hunger for a sense of community. We will see.

Tandleman said...

Wasn't it Alfred Wainwright that said that?

Sheffield Hatter said...

That quote " popularly attributed to fellwalker and guidebook author and illustrator Alfred Wainwright, who spent much of his time outdoors, in the weather." But he wasn't really one for technical gear, mostly wearing tweed suits and a gabardine mackintosh. Doesn't sound much like Billy Connolly, though. Definitely gloves and scarf for me tomorrow - wish me luck picking up my first pint safely.

John Lamb said...

Cheers to all you lucky people in England in Wales we have to wait another two weeks.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Cheers to everyone hoisting their first few pints al fresco this week.
End of June at the earliest before than happens over here.
I'll be back in Blighty for my second jab before then supping a few in Dartmouth when hopefully the sun will be out.

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