So here we are again in a national lockdown, LD2 is upon us and they are already rumouring LD3. It is somewhat surreal to already be talking about ‘last time’ like its a perfectly normal situation that occurs all the time.
The notice of closure is not a feature that most of us would like to see rolled into the next lockdown. LD1 was widely rumoured and expected and the announcement was, in simple terms:
“If you are in a pub stay in the pub, if you are not in a pub go to the pub and when you all leave the pub don’t go back to the pub”
Now your average Joe can handle that instruction, it makes sense. This time around we were told on Saturday that we would close on Wednesday and that gave Mr average Joe way too much to think about. Was it better to go out early or leave it late, should they hit the pub on Wednesday for a last hurrah?
A very slow Sunday gave way to some strong surges on Monday and a not unreasonable Tuesday. Social media was awash with planned pub crawls for Wednesday which ran contrary to most publicans planning.
Every pub that I know had a plan in place to not broach any fresh stock. We walked a delicate line between offering draught for sale and running stock down as close to empty as we could. So how does one address a marauding hoard intent on partying when the reality is that you are stressed about having enough stock for your regulars.
Well at the Plough we opted for a ‘regulars only’ approach. We turned a lot away in order to ensure that those who support us were able to have a last drink. Whilst it is somewhat counterintuitive to turn away trade on the last day that you are able to trade, the Plough has never been about the short term.
We had a lovely night with nice people having a good time. To hear people thanking the Plough and telling us how much they will miss it is worth way more than money in the till.
In terms of draught we really couldn’t have done any better. By the evening we were down to 4 lines and when we closed we still had 4 lines on so the nightmare of running out for friends and regulars didn’t arise. A cellar check after close revealed that across the 4 lines we had 0, 1/2, 5 & 8 pints left respectively so turning people away was certainly the right thing to do!
Speaking to a friend on the Wednesday night I was stuck again by the differences between operators in this trade. The closure of your sole trade is obviously a commercial nightmare and all of us have to work out how we navigate the (albeit lower) costs with no income. All of the capex needs to be reviewed again in order to establish whether we believe that we can remain a viable business on the other side of this and therefore justify the capital spend.
For some this is a period of spreadsheets and analysis. For some it is welcome break and opportunity to spend time with family. For some of us though it is a time of sadness and almost mourning, not for us but for the pubs. It may be because we don’t have much else in our lives and that may be because the pub is such a dominant part of out lives. It may be because of some connection with the pub but probably its just because we are weird.
So last night as the street grew dark so did the Plough as once again she is forbidden from operating. The sadness in the building is palpable, it is not just the absence of people and noise there is more to it than that.
When the pub closes normally there is a shared quietness that is the reward for a long day, the pub has worked her day and earned the quietness. When the pub can’t open the quietness takes on a more lonely note, there is a sadness about the very fabric of the place. Overwhelmingly I feel sad for the Plough because she is not allowed to be the Plough.
But we will get through this closure just like we did the last. In other news I have a meeting with a fabricator tomorrow to look at what we do for a balustrade around the new decking. The decking manufacturer has also confirmed that they remain operational and shipping so we are still on target for early December delivery.
Stay safe people and rest assured that we miss you more than you miss us.