The Landlord of the White Swan in Stow-cum-Quy muses on the what's happening at the pub, and how things might work as social distancing guidelines fluctuate.
After a couple of months' of lockdown and the closure of most businesses that rely on an element of social interaction, there seem to be signs that things are beginning to change. Schools are starting to open to some age groups, people are now allowed to meet in slightly larger groups as long as they have their own towel and don't need the loo, and some 'non-essential' shops can now open provided it's in a 'Covid-safe' way.
July 4 is today's best guess, but as with schools, whatever date the gov choose to change the rules, it won't be a case of a sudden back-to-normal switcharoo. Far from it. I know that pubs like the White Swan are greatly missed by many if our regular patrons, but for people to start to come back, things need to be safe, and for pubs that means radical change.
If you wanted to design the ideal place to spread a virus, the concept of a pub is not a bad starting point. Lot's of people in close proximity merrily shaking hands, sharing tables, toilets, glasses, door handles, and sometimes offering their drink to a friend for a taste. Or, perhaps even a stranger, as pubs are fundamentally open to the public and welcome all and sundry for far and wide, and rarely ask for details of symptoms of fever or refuse entry due to a sneeze.
Of the four characteristics that define a pub according to CAMRA, (via Wikipedia), the first is "Open to the public without membership / residency", and the last is "Allow drinks to be bought at a bar (i.e. not only table service)".
I suspect that using some sort of table booking system will have to become the new normal for pubs for the foreseeable future. Some might reasonably argue that this means that pubs will no longer be pubs, and while I'd have to agree in principle, I can't see any practicable alternative.
As most people who have spent time working in the pub trade can tell you, you get some strange people passing through a public bar. I'd say that 90% of the 'randoms' are sources of intrigue and add an interesting ingredient to an evening that you otherwise probably wouldn't experience. Some though simply ruin your day – the fighters, the loud swearers, the ones who let their kids or dogs eat the furniture and think it doesn't matter because it's just a pub. With this 10% in mind, the idea of booking system seems rather appealing.
As well as keeping out the ne'er-do-wells, a booking system can offer other positives such as being able to make sure that each table is occupied by more than one lone student with half a lemonade and dense book. However, our course through this crisis is being plotted with maths, and it's the ability to control the numbers that's needs to be the main focus. As someone with a small pub in a small village, the biggest risk to me is catching the bug. Apart from not wanting to be ill, or worse, the pub would have to instantly close for at least two weeks. So, while I'm as keen as anyone to see the White Swan back in business, I'm going to be taking things extremely cautiously.
While we're developing our new systems we're offering real ale to take away at just £5 for 2 pints. To find out what's on tap now and available collection times, text 07713 351317.