They’re Open

Hello and welcome to the August/September edition of London Drinker. This edition, like the April/May and June/July ones, is only available on-line. If you haven’t seen the previous on-line editions, you can find them here .

By the time you read this, many pubs should have been open for over three weeks. There isn’t room to list them here but CAMRA’s local branch volunteers are continually updating CAMRA’s WhatPub database to show which pubs have reopened and when. Just go to here for an update on every pub in London.

Happily, the police reported no major incidents on Saturday 4 July, although they did observe that, as the day went on, ‘social distancing’ was not being strictly observed. The Daily Mirror however reported ‘scenes of carnage’, although they also mentioned that around £210 million was spent.

When he announced that pubs could reopen, the Prime Minister promised that guidance would be issued to help licensees understand what was expected of them. This arrived, with commendable promptness, the next morning. The document’s full title is Keeping workers and customers safe during Covid-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaways services; it covers more than just pubs. It was prepared by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with input from trade bodies, businesses, unions, and the devolved administrations. It is a ‘living’ document and is being updated as and when necessary. The original was 43 pages long and curiously, the first one issued was version 3, the previous ones having been dated 11 May and 14 June. As I write, the latest version has arrived (9 July) and has increased to 46 pages.

I’m not going to go into the guidance in detail here because I’m sure that most readers are, by now, familiar with its basic requirements. If however you want to see the full document, you will find it here

That said, let me attempt to clarify the situation as regards face masks. The guidance does not require either pub staff or customers to wear them and the requirement to wear them in shops as from 24 July does not apply to pubs and restaurants. Unlike the pubs guidance, wearing a mask in a shop is a legal requirement. Should pub staff wish to wear them, masks must be made available to pub staff as a Health and Safety requirement and managers can ask staff to wear them, if they think it appropriate.

Although I am sure that many publicans had been planning for it, ten days to interpret these guidelines and put them into place was still a challenge, especially for those who had been led to focus on plans to use outside areas only. The guidance is not easy to manage and some pubs did not feel able to reopen immediately. We should be grateful for those that did open and respect the decision of those who didn’t. Similarly, customers should appreciate that the choice of beer available has also, no doubt, been limited until breweries are able to catch up.

Please: don’t go to the pub if you, or someone in your household or ‘support bubble’, has symptoms of COVID-19. Stay at home and follow NHS advice.

Responding to the announcement on the reopening of pubs in England from 4 July, CAMRA’s Chief Executive, Tom Stainer, said, “Getting down to the pub for a pint with friends and family has been one of the things people have missed the most during lockdown, so it is fantastic news that people in England can start returning to their locals from 4 July. Understandably, this comes with a responsibility to do so safely and responsibly in line with the government’s guidance. CAMRA is urging all pub–goers to follow the rules so that they can keep themselves, other pub–goers, and bar staff safe. On recording customer details to help testing and tracing, this seems to be above and beyond what is being asked of other types of businesses. The Government need to make sure that this doesn’t disadvantage pubs and that the privacy of pub–goers is properly protected. Not being able to go to our local has made us realise just how important pubs are to communities, and in tackling loneliness and social isolation. That is why we need a second wave of financial support to ensure that all pubs – both those operating at reduced trade and those that cannot open safely under social distancing – can survive the next few weeks and thrive in the weeks and months ahead.”

One last thought: many pubs are booking tables. If you book one and then find you cannot go, please let the pub know. It’s only fair to both the pub and your fellow drinkers who could take your place.
Tony Hedger