Thursday 11 February 2021

Pubs with no beer? You cannot be serious!

The fine frontage of the Crown
on Lime Street, Liverpool
It is rumoured that as lockdown eases, the government may allow pubs and bars to reopen without the 10.00 pm curfew and with no requirement to have a substantial meal. This all sounds quite hopeful - until you hear that they are also considering banning any alcohol sales.

The chief medical officer Chris Whitty is concerned that drinking alcohol will destroy any attempts to maintain social distancing. This is not a scientific judgment: it is simply an opinion, and it's not one that is borne out by my own experiences last summer. Every pub I went into observed all the rules and required their customers to do the same. Sometimes I forgot and more than once I was ordered by bar staff: “Oi, Neville! Go back and sanitise your hands!”

If pubs can't serve alcohol, there is a greater danger of the virus spreading in unsupervised conditions such as when groups of friends gather in one house, not for a party as such, but just to have a few drinks from supermarkets. Such behaviour will continue if reopened pubs can sell only non-alcohol drinks: very few regular pubgoers will return just for tea, coffee and soft drinks.

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, tweeted: “Reopening in name only inflicts irreparable damage on hospitality as we saw October to December with restrictions with little meaningful impact on health or harm, pushing revenues as low as 20% to 30%. Unsustainable for restaurants and pubs.”

She explained how pub and bar operators had taken meticulous measures to reopen safely last summer, and how few cases of COVID-19 infections had been caused by the industry. She emphasised that, operating under such extreme limitations, the pubs and hospitality industry did not break even.

While there is always the occasional idiot on either side of the bar who will selfishly break any rule that gets in the way, when pubs reopened last year I saw no chaotic scenes of drunken abandonment, and neither did anyone else I know. This industry's problem during the pandemic is that decisions are being made about its future by politicians who know nothing about it because they never go into pubs themselves, except for photo opportunities at election time. That simply isn't good enough.


  1. Quite right - decisions are being taken by people with no understanding of, or liking for, pubs.

    And hospitality is widely seen as the frivolous icing on the cake rather than something that is vitally important both for the economy and people's mental well-being.

  2. Some of the scenes from London and the last nights before lockdown in Liverpool weren't helpful. I think street drinking, which is common in London is generally frowned on elsewhere, but colours some narrow political minds in terms of how pubs operate.

  3. You're right, Tandleman: such scenes weren't helpful, but to generalise from them is like condemning all football fans because of hooligans. I'd expect more sophisticated thinking from our government - although that's probably asking for too much from this bunch of expensively educated but, essentially, talentless and self-serving politicians.

  4. Only one song for this matter:


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