Well we are one week in to the temporary normal and it is certainly odd.
Firstly I have to say that the amount of love showed to the pub has been wonderful. It is so nice to see the genuine happiness on so many peoples faces when they return to the Plough.
In order to open one of the things that we have to do is to generate a risk assessment. I have produced hundreds of these documents over the years but was immediately hit with complications. When you look at the risk analysis for an activity you need to identify the risk and of an event occurring and the consequence, reducing either of these brings the overall risk value down.
With covid-19 there is no defined risk. What we are actually documenting is the potential risk of creating a situation where transmission ‘could’ occur and where one party ‘could’ be contagious. Having overcome my certainty that this was not the appropriate document for the situation I set about producing it anyway.
The Plough is not a venue that spends significant time at capacity and neither is it one that is run at arms length. The simple reality is that the ‘covid secure’ activities are in the main fluid decisions guided by the situation.
I maintain that I will not trade with plastic screens. For a very bar centric venue this is a step too far and would make the entire opening somewhat pointless. We have sanitiser available, increased sanitation regimes in place and we are asking people to use some common sense.
We have a test and trace system in place despite the fact that the Isle of Wight jungle drums will be far quicker in the event of an outbreak. Because we do not normally run at capacity we have not removed furniture and instead are relying on people to follow the guidance and to do so in a way that makes them comfortable.
The only people who understand their ‘social bubbles’ are those within them and if a group feel safe sat together I fail to see how it is my responsibility to divide them by some arbitrary rule. Surely if 8 people have been together throughout lock-down then separating them in the pub makes no sense.
So, for those of you who have not yet visited, the Plough can be summed up as sanitiser, don’t move the furniture and have some bloody common sense!
How has it affected trade? Obviously it has had a negative affect, that was always going to be the case. The toughest thing at the moment though is acting as pretty much the antithesis of a publican. It seems we spend our whole time making people uncomfortable with rules and conditions rather than welcoming people.
As always the great British public have their own unique take on the whole situation. I have customers who tell me that I am one of the more relaxed venues but then go on to bemoan the rules that we have like petulant children.
I have customers who hug me repeatedly and then bemoan the lack of social distancing. And of course I have the ‘down the road what they do….’ brigade who fail to understand that it is for each venue to interpret the guidance itself.
And then there is the drinkers, alcohol tolerance would make a fantastic dissertation for anyone. There are those who had not touched an alcoholic beverage until the pubs reopened, those who just carried on at home and those who increased. The one thing there isn’t is any guide to current performance.
We have had teetotals drop straight back into it with absolutely no ill effects and we have had those who haven’t stopped taking to it like a car crash. The best of all though will always be those who ‘upped their game’ the session drinkers who ‘upgraded’ to premium during lock-down. All impressed with their newfound ability to neck 8 pints of 5% they head to the pub and forget that there is an exchange rate.
Drinking 8 cans of Stella at home does not mean that you can do the same number of pints in a pub. At home you are dominantly sedentary, rising for toilet or kitchen breaks and eventually to retire. The pub is a different environment, you are more mobile here, you are more obvious (since you are not in your own home and, perhaps most crucially, you will have to leave at some point.
Meeting fresh air will test the mettle of even the hardest drinker and it is at the point of exit that we see the grand plan come tumbling. The first lung full of fresh air and you know that you are not in the premium brew league.
Nobody remembers that the pub is a wholly different environment to home.