Whilst my work for the Irish and German authorities* on the reopening of drinking establishments has kept me busy during lockdown, our own government has announced that pubs are allowed to reopen on the 4th July.
Many opinions and stances have emerged from this and will continue to do so for the next week and a half. Due to my lengthy post about how pubs may look back in April, including some ideas that a few establishments may be implementing, I was going to opt out of offering more conjecture to matters.
But I then clicked on a set of polls on Twitter formed by the Hopinions podcast and, as usual, reading through the replies left me itchy to respond. As I am too verbose to form these thoughts on that platform, I have decided to answer each question here, considering some of the thoughts of others.
(The Hopinions polls are still open at time of writing – add your own answers there if you wish.)
The suggestions appear to be that pubs will require names and addresses from visiting customers to ensure that tracking and tracing can be successfully carried out. As with most collections of data, people feel slightly uneasy about it.
Of course, there is the option to give a fake name and address that many will take up. Then there is the more obvious response that we should be doing everything we can to help bring the virus under control. If this system is a necessity then it would be acceptable.
The wording of the question, however, makes one aspect key to me personally – “local.” If I do return to pubs in the coming weeks, I will only be returning to the places that are my local or regular haunts. As somebody still actively avoiding public transport, I will not be going anywhere that cannot be reached either by foot or via a quick lift. Handing my information over to the people in those institutions would hardly be necessary, with most of the staff knowing my name and where I live anyway.
I can also look at the way I can be traced anyway through my own excursions. It isn’t as though I have spent my life preparing for an episode of Hunted. I post frequently on social media accounts about my whereabouts, check in beers to Untappd with location on and pay via debit card wherever I can, confirming to my bank manager that 90% of my transactions happen across the bar. If I am prepared to make myself visible so easily, then why would I object to giving this information over to further ensure public safety?
(Eagle eyed readers will notice I voted 'No' on the poll originally, as I clicked before I'd really thought about it. I've had a rethink on most of my answers.)
The joy of the pub comes from its extemporary usage, as stated in my lockdown post a few months ago "Sometimes...It just needs to be there, waiting as an option that you can ignore. Not today thanks but it was nice to know that, should the tide turn or an opportunity arise, it is waiting”
Booking removes that aspect of socialising, but that is only one facet. Whilst it isn’t how we always choose to use the pub, it is how we sometimes do. *Open Whatsapp Group with local pals.* “Anyone fancy a pint Friday night at the Grapes? Brilliant. I’ll book us in for 6pm. See you there.” It doesn’t sound too ridiculous.
“But it takes away the spontaneity of going to the pub.” Yes but it has also taken 475,000+ lives worldwide. You meant the virus, right? You remember that any of these limitations are due to the global pandemic, right?
As somebody who has tried to approach the pandemic changes of the daily routine with embrace, to control my own mental state, I find the idea of this little altered quirk rather appealing. It would bring a change of pace and excitement to quarantine proceedings to be Tweeting “Booked in at the local for 3pm Sunday for some pints of cask – cannot wait.” These changes are not forever; embrace this time whilst you can.
*May not be true – listen to the hopinions podcast for more details