There has been much debate on the small island, of late, as to how we handle the ‘tier issue’. For those unfamiliar with the rather bizarre details of the tier system allow me to first explain the insanity that they bring.
Most of the UK is in tier 2 or 3 and your personal tier is gifted to you at your home address, so where you live is your tier rather than where you are. The island is in tier 1 which means we are still allowed to consume an alcoholic drink in a pub as long as we sit down, wear masks and generally don’t enjoy it.
Those in tier 3 are not allowed to use a pub and those in tier 2 are only trusted to drink if they also eat the infamous ‘substantial meal’. So a venue such as the Plough that does not serve substantial meals can only accommodate visitors who live in a tier 1 area. Anybody visiting from tier 2 would need to sit alone (no rule of 6) and consume a meal and anyone from tier 3 is not allowed in a pub.
To add to the festive fun the rules are relaxed over Christmas but not in pubs. So your man can travel from tier 2 to tier 1 and meet up with friends and family but he can neither sit with them or drink without dining if they venture out. The responsibility for enforcing the tier rules lies with the individual but local authorities (always keen to add to our woes) are pushing venues to have a means of enforcement.
For us at the Plough this presents an odd challenge. On one hand we are furious with the ridiculous nature of the rules and cannot understand why we are spending billions on vaccines when a highly contagious virus can be controlled simply by eating a scotch egg. On the other hand if you visit us from another tier then you are flouting the rules that we are all obliged to deal with.
After much debate we have concluded that the anger at people not abiding by the rules is the greater and therefore we are now asking for your address as well as the myriad other things that we have to ask when you arrive. This requirement is growing across the island and is, in a large part, due to the poor messages put out by our council. The message in Cornwall has consistently been to stay away and we look forward to welcoming you back when this is over. The message from the island has been to travel safe and play nicely which does not reflect the national guidance.
The tiering is another aspect to (It’s not really) Christmas this year that is making it the stuff of nightmares for the licensed trade. Christmas normally involves a lot of plate spinning but the crazy flu has added a whole new stack to keep in motion.
Christmas Eve is normally a pub crawl with random bursts of frantic activity. This (It’s not really) Christmas Eve is we are going to restrict to regulars to ensure that we can accommodate as many as possible. Christmas lunch is a great session, normally a busy fun shift that (as is tradition) is only ever worked by landlords. We now have less than 5 seats available for the session as we try to accommodate regulars. Don’t think that this is a good thing, far from it, capacity is so badly reduced that we are struggling with space.
Christmas lunch has turned from a great shift to a gruelling one. Table service and repeated turn aways make it look like hard work already. The only positive that we can draw from the festive period this year is that, hopefully, next year we will not be looking at what lessons we can learn from 2020. Hopefully this is a one off that can be consigned to history and never repeated.
The licensed trade has always been one where we are swans. Whilst we appear to glide through the trade with grace underneath we are frantically trying to keep things afloat. We remember your round despite the fact that we are 5 deep at the bar. We know when you say ‘coke’ you mean diet, we know what your partner drinks when she darts into the toilet just as you reach the bar. We know when to ask you if you want another pint and when to just pour it.
In crazy flu season we remember your change despite serving 3 other people at the same time. We juggle taking your personal details while trying to talk to you and eyeing where to seat the next visitors. Above all we are good at showing ‘we got this’. The truth is that the planning takes late nights and stress, checking and rechecking stock levels to make sure that order is right. Trying to predict income and balance it against long and mid term capital projects is hard even in normal times.
So if you are a once a year pub goer (there are many) turned away from the door on (It’s not really) Christmas day, or if you are a visitor turned away because of tiering. If you feel the urge to yell at us because you are just ‘trying to support the pubs’ please try and subdue it, just for this year. If you fail then please don’t be surprised if we chase you down the road explaining what your ‘support’ means to us.
For those who will be venturing to a pub this (Its not really)Christmas, wherever you are, please spare a thought for the crew. They don’t know if they will come out the other side of this, their trade has been villainised, everything that they know has been challenged. They are far more tired of the restrictions than you can possibly be, they are fighting to hold things together for each other.
Take a moment and thank your crew for their support, for battling on and ensuring you only see the graceful glide and not the sleepless nights, the spreadsheets and the mental battles. Just take that moment to say thank you, its a small thing but it means the world to most of them.