By Neville Grundy, Southport & West Lancs CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale)
“It is rumoured that as lockdown eases, the government may allow pubs and bars to reopen without the 10pm 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. Occasionally 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 pub goers 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. Decisions about a significant industry shouldn’t be based on uninformed preconceptions.
IF you would like to find out more or join Southport & West Lancs Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) please visit: www.southport.camra.org.uk