An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Saturday is Pub Day

The pubs open Saturday. Whoop Whoop I hear you cry. Or maybe that cry is more a whimper of “It’s too soon. It’s not safe” I don’t know. You are welcome to your view. I for one am happy to see the world normalise. I think the quicker we get back to normal the better. I don’t mean a new normal, neither, the old normal. I hope any adaptations we need to make are short-lived and not with us forever. I liked the old comfortable nihilism of living in a decaying culture and hope we return to it as soon as possible.

In deciding whether to go back to the pub, I confess to mixed thoughts. Pubs are not necessary, and they are unlikely to be able to provide the type of relaxed hospitality I enjoyed for some time yet. Nevertheless, the regimented hospitality of Perspex, masks, gloved hands, app ordering, disinfected tables and whatnot is something to experience even if it is to report back here how utterly terrible it is. Like visiting a craft brewery tap under a railway arch in a shithole district of a northern city. Something to do at least once just so you can moan about the ridiculous price for poor crap. Imagine being a pub and beer interested person and not experiencing one of the big forced changes to hospitality in a generation and not be in a position to comment from your own experience?

Throughout this pandemic it has been a sight to observe the many different reactions both to it and the activities of others. The widespread condemnation of the irresponsible other. The same people condemned and clapped in equal measure depending on whether they are sat on a train or stood in a hospital. Some would say this comes down to the different assessments we all make about risk. How we all as humans evolved to bypass a rational assessment and trust a gut instinct. There is certainly an argument that a rational assessment and calculation is a costly exercise in time, and that in dangerous situations those able to make a quick judgement enjoy an evolutionary advantage. Maybe not in this situation but when faced with the near certain death from a predator, a quick assessment of whether to fight or flight might result in a greater chance of survival. So, we are not really programmed by our evolution to weigh carefully the risks, but to trust our feelings about things. It is why people get in cars and on bikes but fear planes and trains. There’s a reason why deaths on the latter are news but on the former they are an everyday occurrence and not worthy of the news.

I would suggest our lived experiences influence this more than anything. The educated middle classes like to think of themselves as clever and rational, but I would suggest they are products of the same evolution as their less educated and harder working countrymen. If you have the type of desk occupation that has lent itself to working from home or furlough and you now have spent a lot of time indoors, isolating or going outside your property rarely, you may have developed the view that it is risky out there. If you work on a computer like say, if you’re a beer writer churning tiresome guff out to your website, you can do that from the comfort of your own home whilst waving at the Ocado and Craft Beer delivery driver through the window as they leave things on your step.

If your occupation has lent itself to going out to a shop floor on a daily basis whether in factory, shop or warehouse, travelling on public transport, being told you don’t need a mask, then you do, being clapped one minute, condemned as irresponsible the next, you may have developed the view that going out on a Saturday to a pub is no more risky that what you have been doing Monday to Friday in order to make ends meet anyway and by God, won’t it be nice to get back to normal and sink a purple cocktail jug down Spoons? Your view of risk may be different.

I cannot tell you whether to go down the pub or not. I can tell you that your assessment of risk is no more scientific and based on facts as anyone else’s. It is based on feelings. Just like everyone else’s. I can’t tell you whether it’s safe or not. I know no more than you. The difference is I am aware that I don’t know. I wear a mask. I bought it from the St Pauli online gift shop because I wanted one with skull and crossbones on. I bought ones with N95 accreditation from screw fix for my elderly parents who may be leaving their home sometime this month for the 1st time since March. I swerved crap on amazon and eBay wary of rip offs for poor quality shite thinking your B&Q, Screwfix, Wickes flog proper stuff with quality standards if you can find it in stock. I have no idea whether it makes a difference or not. No more or less an idea than you do. It seems the done thing. I wear trousers when outside the house for much the same reason. People stare if you don’t. Maybe the next pandemic will bring hats back. My grandfather always sported a trilby with a feather in it. Maybe we can rationalise that as having some effect on our survival chances.

But imagine. You purport to write about beer and pubs and don’t go out to experience the biggest format change they are ever likely to have forced on them. You don’t record if it works well or badly. Whether it represents a good or poor experience, or even whether you feel safe. Imagine if you swerve it. Leave it until you feel safe and report back an experience devoid of any lived experience.

Then imagine in a month or twos time, when the numbers start coming in. Cash receipts are in the toilet. Takings have tanked. Half the hospitality industry is unviable and screaming for a government rescue. Pubs are being boarded up. I guess they’ll be something to write about then. How it’s all the governments fault for not writing a blank cheque to an industry that doesn’t stand a chance of returning to the position it was once in no matter what you throw at it. No more arguing about use it or lose it as you are in no hurry to use it until you feel safe.

More don’t use it and expect a bailout, I’m guessing. Chin up though. It’s not just pubs, it’s flights that are returning. I'm off to check out the Ryan Air offers. The cheapo game of my summer. I want to experience a socially distanced bier garten and be that foreigner that coughs. That’s life returning. See you in the Spoons queue Saturday afternoon depending on the length of it and whether it’s raining or not.


Tandleman said...

Great stuff Cookie. And you are right about beer writers. I am unlikely to be there on Day 1, as there is a socially distanced family do that afternoon - I'm contributing my most excellent corned beef hotpot - but I will be in the THT on Sunday.

Will I stay? Dunno. Will I feel safe? - dunno. But at the moment this is being alive, not living and I haven't got that much life left to wait and see forever.

Statistically, there is more chance of me being run over on the way there than catching Covid-19 while there. Does that make my fight or flight decision easier. Dunno, but then there IS nothing certain in life other than death, taxes and that nobody anywhere, ever, suits a bandana.

Curmudgeon said...

Excellent stuff, Cookie, one of your best. You are quite right to highlight the bizarre attitude of many beer communicators who will be cringing under the duvet and missing one of the biggest changes to hit pubs in their lifetime.

And the money just isn't there to keep pubs, or any other sector of the economy, in suspended animation indefinitely. Arguably the money isn't there to do what has been done already, and taxpayers will be on the hook for it for generations. If pubs didn't reopen now, many of them never would.

Tyson said...

Awful. I tuned in here to read some guff about cooking lager being cheaper in Aldi than the pubs. Instead I am treated to a well-thought out, sensible piece about the nature of life and the evaluation of risk?! Which you're right about, of course. My brother has had to work all the way through, meeting new people almost daily. He will certainly feel safer sat in a pub with people he knows.

Matt said...

WWI was pretty similar when it came to lived experiences affecting people's perceptions. The deaths of middle and upper-class young officers, who died in a higher proportion than privates and other noncommissioned ranks, hit their friends and relatives that much harder because, unlike the working-class soldiers and their families who had seen people die violently pretty regularly down the pit, in factories or on the docks, they just weren't used to it.

Britain Beermat said...

I'm going! Spot on

John Lamb said...

Well said,I'd love to go to the pub but I live in Wales,whose 'First Minister' when asked whether he had any plans to permit pubs reopening said that 'there was more to life than pubs'. It looks like the Welsh may have there own experience of life without pubs as they will all close permanently coupled with mass unemployment.

alecandsophie said...

I can't help but think many of the issues could be alleviated with some good old British ingenuity. My grandad helped defeat the Luftwaffe by tinkering with wireless radios in a potting shed and transferring those skills to the RAF. All it takes is innovation but I've read no professional bloggers talk about pubs getting in supplies of really long straws. Similarly, some pubs have vaulted ceilings and the two metre rule set by social distancing can't just apply horizontally can it? Come on publicans - set up some ceiling rigs and pulley systems. I for one would be more than happy to hang from a swing to save the British pub.

Cooking Lager said...

Everyone has there own perception of risk, but I am surprised at pub and beer interested people not wishing to check it out. Even if it is to see a queue, notice the rain and say buggar that. Or walking in and straight out again and commenting as to why you may not feel it a safe environment.

Most pubs are likely going to the wall before Xmas. For many, this is the last time to experience their final moments. The less sentimental owners will call it quits sooner. Those that fail to appreciate the fallacy of sunk cost will try to see it out as long as they can and walk away with nothing. For the price of a pint you can see for yourself and comment from actual experience rather than parrot 3rd party news.

Boozy P said...

It is not a question of safety for me, it is a question of legitmising this "new normal"

I hoping to be fortunate enough to live within an enclave of a few of those dull, grey, former red wall towns, that judging from the few pubs that have been "open" over the last few weeks, I don't seen them succumbing to the name and number, card only bollocks

Of course just because I don't like the regulations doesn't mean I won't respect them, from a public safety point of view.

I may just stick my head in and given the option to get a drink as normal but with distancing, I may just stick around to see how horrible it is, or how quickly it all falls apart.

Curmudgeon said...

A lot of pubs seem to be acting as though they're going to be mobbed which, apart from possibly an initial rush, just isn't going to happen. They won't be able to afford to antagonise customers.

retiredmartin said...

I wanted a 1.FC Nurnberg face mask but they seem to cost $18 and come from America.

Thanks for saying what I wanted to say but was scared of getting hate male from the beer bores.

Saturday gonna be lit, as my 19 year old lad says, though he's talking about getting back to cutting Manc hair at Maclures.

The Dangerman said...

I'm definitely planning on going Saturday afternoon, try a few out and see which feels the most like the Old Normal. A few token gestures I'll take in my stride, but hectoring or having to read an instruction manual will put it out of favour. It may mean a new local, but I hope it doesn't.

I agree with Curmudgeon though, they need us more than we need them. It may even see the revival in fortunes of wet-led suburban boozer who I'd say will be far less likely to ram social distancing in your face and less likely be forced under corporate diktat to turn the boozer into a sterile hospital like environment. To end on a sad note though, there will almost certainly be a permanent contraction in the industry over the next 12 months.

Robin O said...

Great post, very thought provoking.

As a shareholder in a pub, I have a slightly different perspective. Obviously I can only speak for one small pub in a small town in Yorkshire. We saw significant decline in footfall in the two weeks leading up to the lockdown. In fact the reduced takings in the week immediately before lockdown was so significant we would have shut the pub anyway (until after the crisis). The lockdown when it came actually eased the situation for the business because we could furlough the staff and claim business rate relief. In short it guaranteed the survival of the business at least until after the restrictions were lifted. So the government has already done quite a lot. Now its up to the public to keep businesses afloat.

As others have commented many pubs will not survive. Like many crises the trend established before the crisis (for pub closures) will be accelerated.

Last thing to say is that I will definitely be supporting the pub trade on Saturday, albeit sitting in a beer garden. Sadly not my pub which was flooded by a deluge which hit the town last Friday. My pub can now only open on Wednesday 8th July.