Post Lockdown Pubbing

How Brighton’s pubs are serving with safety

The pubs are open again! Hoorah. Time to reacquaint ourselves with a proper ‘pint’ of the good stuff, chat with friends across a table rather than a grassy patch and settle into our much-missed home-from-homes.

On Saturday 4th July COVID-19 lockdown measures were relaxed enough to allow our favourite establishments to dust off the chairs, reconnect the beer and welcome us through their doors – and many did just that, with (socially distanced) open arms.

With one or two metre distancing still governing all our interactions, plus another 50 pages of government guidance on top for hospitality businesses to follow, what does this mean for us punters and a typical pub visit?

Brighton Beer Blog has ventured out over the past couple of weeks to explore this strange new world and bring you our thoughts based on a cross section of reopened Brighton pubs post lockdown.

The first obvious change is how empty the bars seem. Gone are the days of packed pubs and four-deep queues at the bar. Also we observed neatly spaced tables, safety signage, arrows indicating one-way systems, hand-san on arrival, track-and-trace recording of your party’s details,  and a personal welcome/safety briefing at the door before being led to a table.

It’s a lot to take in, and we were worried these precautions would begin to grate and feel overbearing to the point of sucking the life, relaxation and atmosphere from a pub visit. However we were pleasantly surprised at the chirpy way we were welcomed in by staff everywhere, and the normality of the buzzy vibe that was evident in all the pubs we’ve explored so far.

 

Laine Brew Co run a massive chunk of Brighton and Hove’s pub estate, so it was fantastic to know that the company would be opening almost all of its outlets on 4th July. We booked slots at four of them in the opening week via their websites. This in itself adds a new administrative element to pub visits: the pre-determination of how long you might want the table for, and exactly how many people will be joining you. No longer can you make those “just one more for the road” or “mind if my mate joins us” last-minute decisions.

Laine’s bars on the whole are running table service, both inside and outside, via a website app. Although initially confusing to navigate (and despite first-day hiccups which saw it crash city-wide), the process is simple enough. We found the service efficient and reliable, with some staff wearing masks (such as The Open House) but many others not. The menu and drinks options seemed to have been thinned down a little and we felt it wasn’t the time to ask for tasters, which meant we didn’t diverge from our tried-and-tested favourites to sample a guest.

The Roundhill, an independently run pub near London Road station, also ran a table service method, but orders here were taken in person by a very amiable team, and all staff were wearing face masks and we even spotted them being tested with one of those thermometer guns. They had installed a clever manual traffic-light system, so that not more than one person could enter a toilet at one time, something we haven’t seen anywhere else; however this broke down when one of our party didn’t even notice it on their way downstairs, and another said their colour blindness made it useless. We can imagine that as the drinks flow and people get caught short, the rules might be flaunted anyway. The atmosphere here was incredibly relaxed and the pub’s chilled-out vibe remains very much alive.

At The Park Crescent table service wasn’t in operation, but we were specifically asked to hand sanitise as we entered, there was loads of signage and the staff were masked. Additionally much of the bar was sheeted with polythene, with clearly defined serving and payment sections. It wasn’t busy when we were there but it felt well distanced and safe, even if it was a bit weird staring at a bar surrounded by a shower curtain.

The Park View are running table service and had closed 50% of the garden to ensure service didn’t suffer, you were trusted to record your details via a QR scan (something we can see technophobes struggling with or ignoring) and people were generally wandering around and the staff struggled to get people to obey the ‘wait to be seated’ sign. We experienced confusion about the table booking system here as we were told on the phone earlier in the day it was first-come first-serve, only to find when we arrived we couldn’t sit outside as there were bookings on the outdoor tables.

The Brunswick has reopened and so too its massive suntrap garden, and similarly this was limited to half capacity. Entry is through the garden now and we were warmly greeted and briefed on the new measures. A card was handed to us with a QR code to a secure site for contact tracing (though second visit this was recorded on a pad). It’s table service only, which was quick even on a busy Friday evening, and and our server knew their beer list off by heart. Great to see this place has retained it’s buzz post lockdown, however as is the case in many places now, opening hours are limited with last orders at 9pm. Notably, they were also the only pub so far to ask how many households we were from, as when we tried to move inside we were told the inside seating rules were strictly for people from max of 2 households. Good on them!

The Good Companions asks one member of the group to check in on a paper form in front of the bar. It seems everyone visiting on a particular day will be on the same form, perhaps it’s not the time to bring up data protection..? However, the staff are as friendly as ever and once we’re seated we notice little difference. Drinks are ordered and paid for at the bar and handed over at a dedicated section towards the back.

Bison Beach Bar is a different beast entirely. Being outdoors there is plenty of room for spaced-out tables, and people queued at distance from each other at the bar. On a sunny day this place is the perfect socially distanced spot. We didn’t see any clear and obvious signage about being vigilant; there were no queuing systems or anyone managing capacity, no masks being worn by the staff either, but as long as people do queue with awareness and the staff keep numbers down it’s a place to really relax away from the rigmarole.

It has to be admitted that, as pubs became busier in the evenings, we noticed the first cracks in the people management beginning to appear. Punters became more inebriated, staff busier and rules subsequently relaxed or ignored. Bigger groups started to spread out, go to the smoking areas en masse and begin blocking corridors and entrances. We even saw a girl walk in with a cigarette in one place, completely oblivious until her friend pointed it out – clearly she hadn’t yet switched from park drinking mode.

 

When you get a group of people drinking in a pub, simply yearning for a sense of normality, you can predict that rules will occasionally be forgotten or relaxed. You can forgive teething issues in these early days, remembering that the staff are figuring this all out as much as we are. Despite the stress they must be under to get it right, all were exceptionally friendly, patient and welcoming and it was clear they were doing their best, in most cases doing an exceptional job, to keep people safe in uncharted territory.

Hovewever, not to be understated is the weight of responsibility hanging above the heads of every individual who enters a pub, whether to work or drink. It’ll only takes a small resurgence in COVID to turn Brighton and Hove back into a ghost town just as our local economy is starting to recover.

Perhaps as a poignant reminder that this pandemic is not yet over we should highlight that there are still pubs across town that have their lights off, tills silent and pint pullers out of work, unable to make it work in their space, or unwilling to take the risk.

We tried to call in at the Black Dove in Kemptown, but we heard from William, the proprietor, who told us: “We’re an experienced-based venue – the product’s value comes with atmosphere and customer service. When that’s limited somewhat it’s hard to offer our usual honest fare.”

Then there are pubs that also work as breweries (or vice versa) such as The Hand in Hand and UnBarred. Both are well loved as drinking venues but have prioritised brewery production and takeaway/delivery as a mechanism to keep revenue rolling in. Neither feel it’s the right time to fully reopen their bars due to lack of space – or as Jordan, Head Brewer at UnBarred, explains it: “We are a production brewery with a taproom, and we can’t compromise our production site.”

 

‘Unprecedented’ is a word that we expect will have shot up in Google’s use-over-time ranking this year, and if you feel like it’s an unprecedented level of procedure to simply enter and enjoy a pint, spare a thought for the owners, management and staff in pubs who are bending over backwards to accomodate people, and yet still can’t fill their pubs and run their businesses at the level they used to.

Pubs used to be that reliable place to congregate freely, meet a group of people spontaneously or even go out specifically to meet new people, but that’s just not possible in the current climate. If you do arrange a pub trip, you might experience the new quirks of relatively arduous systems in order to book, record your entry and order a drink; but if like us you’ve done this a few times now, it quickly becomes the norm. Many people will have faced the disappointment of finding their local full when they arrive because they couldn’t just turn up like the old days. We’d always recommend messaging or ringing ahead to make sure there’s space or trying to arrange your visit outside of peak times to alleviate bottlenecks if you can.

On the whole though it really does feel like you can enjoy the old atmosphere of a pub in a safe and conscientious way and we saw many signs that as much was being done as possibly could be, to run a pub safely in the current situation. Whether you feel safe enough to do so will probably be a pub-by-pub decision, and come down to the time you decide to go, how busy the place is relative to its size, whether the pub is operating table service (which is for us the best way of reducing people moving about) and how many people the pub is willing to allow to enter the space as walk-ins.

 

We hope we have given you a glimpse of what to expect, and the confidence to venture back out to your local and see how they are making an effort to ensure their pub is safe to frequent.

Finally we’d like to say particular thanks to all the people staffing pubs across the city – particularly the people we’ve met over the past couple of weeks who brought us our drinks and spent time chatting with us about their procedures and how it was all going. You all seemed genuinely happy to be working and to see customers filling the tables again.

We all benefit from a vibrant pub scene in Brighton, and and we wish you and your pubs all the best going forward.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Tractix Support

    What a brilliant insightful article. Tractix http://www.tractix.co.uk offer Barcode – QR Scanning and if you would like it for 300 Days at no cost we would be happy to offer this to all Brighton Companies involved in the Hospitality Industry. Get rid of the paper and pen method, do it seamlessly using technology, no need to store data for 21 days we will do that and ensure you are GDPR Compliant. Simply send an email to support@tractix.co.uk and we will sort it for you.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Lockdown Pubbing

How Brighton’s bars are serving with safety

The pubs are open again! Hoorah. Time to reacquaint ourselves with a proper ‘pint’ of the good stuff, chat with friends across a table rather than a grassy patch and settle into our much-missed home-from-homes..

On Saturday 4th July COVID-19 lockdown measures were relaxed enough to allow our favourite establishments to dust off the chairs, reconnect the beer and welcome us through their doors – and many did just that, with (socially distanced) open arms.

With one or two metre distancing still governing all our interactions, plus another 50 pages of government guidance on top for hospitality businesses to follow, what does this mean for us punters and a typical pub visit?

Brighton Beer Blog has ventured out over the past couple of weeks to explore this strange new world and bring you our thoughts based on a cross section of reopened Brighton pubs post lockdown.

The first obvious change is how empty the bars seem. Gone are the days of packed pubs and four-deep queues at the bar. Also we observed neatly spaced tables, safety signage, arrows indicating one-way systems, hand-san on arrival, track-and-trace recording of your party’s details,  and a personal welcome/safety briefing at the door before being led to a table.

It’s a lot to take in, and we were worried these precautions would begin to grate and feel overbearing to the point of sucking the life, relaxation and atmosphere from a pub visit. However we were pleasantly surprised at the chirpy way we were welcomed in by staff everywhere, and the normality of the buzzy vibe that was evident in all the pubs we’ve explored so far.

 

Laine Brew Co run a massive chunk of Brighton and Hove’s pub estate, so it was fantastic to know that the company would be opening almost all of its outlets on 4th July. We booked slots at four of them in the opening week via their websites. This in itself adds a new administrative element to pub visits: the pre-determination of how long you might want the table for, and exactly how many people will be joining you. No longer can you make those “just one more for the road” or “mind if my mate joins us” last-minute decisions.

Laine’s bars on the whole are running table service, both inside and outside, via a website app. Although initially confusing to navigate (and despite first-day hiccups which saw it crash city-wide), the process is simple enough. We found the service efficient and reliable, with some staff wearing masks (such as The Open House) but many others not. The menu and drinks options seemed to have been thinned down a little and we felt it wasn’t the time to ask for tasters, which meant we didn’t diverge from our tried-and-tested favourites to sample a guest.

The Roundhill, an independently run pub near London Road station, also ran a table service method, but orders here were taken in person by a very amiable team, and all staff were wearing face masks and we even spotted them being tested with one of those thermometer guns. They had installed a clever manual traffic-light system, so that not more than one person could enter a toilet at one time, something we haven’t seen anywhere else; however this broke down when one of our party didn’t even notice it on their way downstairs, and another said their colour blindness made it useless. We can imagine that as the drinks flow and people get caught short, the rules might be flaunted anyway. The atmosphere here was incredibly relaxed and the pub’s chilled-out vibe remains very much alive.

At The Park Crescent table service wasn’t in operation, but we were specifically asked to hand sanitise as we entered, there was loads of signage and the staff were masked. Additionally much of the bar was sheeted with polythene, with clearly defined serving and payment sections. It wasn’t busy when we were there but it felt well distanced and safe, even if it was a bit weird staring at a bar surrounded by a shower curtain.

The Park View are running table service and had closed 50% of the garden to ensure service didn’t suffer, you were trusted to record your details via a QR scan (something we can see technophobes struggling with or ignoring) and people were generally wandering around and the staff struggled to get people to obey the ‘wait to be seated’ sign. We experienced confusion about the table booking system here as we were told on the phone earlier in the day it was first-come first-serve, only to find when we arrived we couldn’t sit outside as there were bookings on the outdoor tables.

The Brunswick has reopened and so too its massive suntrap garden, and similarly this was limited to half capacity. Entry is through the garden now and we were warmly greeted and briefed on the new measures. A card was handed to us with a QR code to a secure site for contact tracing (though second visit this was recorded on a pad). It’s table service only, which was quick even on a busy Friday evening, and and our server knew their beer list off by heart. Great to see this place has retained it’s buzz post lockdown, however as is the case in many places now, opening hours are limited with last orders at 9pm. Notably, they were also the only pub so far to ask how many households we were from, as when we tried to move inside we were told the inside seating rules were strictly for people from max of 2 households. Good on them!

The Good Companions asks one member of the group to check in on a paper form in front of the bar. It seems everyone visiting on a particular day will be on the same form, perhaps it’s not the time to bring up data protection..? However, the staff are as friendly as ever and once we’re seated we notice little difference. Drinks are ordered and paid for at the bar and handed over at a dedicated section towards the back.

Bison Beach Bar is a different beast entirely. Being outdoors there is plenty of room for spaced-out tables, and people queued at distance from each other at the bar. On a sunny day this place is the perfect socially distanced spot. We didn’t see any clear and obvious signage about being vigilant; there were no queuing systems or anyone managing capacity, no masks being worn by the staff either, but as long as people do queue with awareness and the staff keep numbers down it’s a place to really relax away from the rigmarole.

It has to be admitted that, as pubs became busier in the evenings, we noticed the first cracks in the people management beginning to appear. Punters became more inebriated, staff busier and rules subsequently relaxed or ignored. Bigger groups started to spread out, go to the smoking areas en masse and begin blocking corridors and entrances. We even saw a girl walk in with a cigarette in one place, completely oblivious until her friend pointed it out – clearly she hadn’t yet switched from park drinking mode.

 

When you get a group of people drinking in a pub, simply yearning for a sense of normality, you can predict that rules will occasionally be forgotten or relaxed. You can forgive teething issues in these early days, remembering that the staff are figuring this all out as much as we are. Despite the stress they must be under to get it right, all were exceptionally friendly, patient and welcoming and it was clear they were doing their best, in most cases doing an exceptional job, to keep people safe in uncharted territory.

Hovewever, not to be understated is the weight of responsibility hanging above the heads of every individual who enters a pub, whether to work or drink. It’ll only takes a small resurgence in COVID to turn Brighton and Hove back into a ghost town just as our local economy is starting to recover.

Perhaps as a poignant reminder that this pandemic is not yet over we should highlight that there are still pubs across town that have their lights off, tills silent and pint pullers out of work, unable to make it work in their space, or unwilling to take the risk.

We tried to call in at the Black Dove in Kemptown, but we heard from William, the proprietor, who told us: “We’re an experienced-based venue – the product’s value comes with atmosphere and customer service. When that’s limited somewhat it’s hard to offer our usual honest fare.”

Then there are pubs that also work as breweries (or vice versa) such as The Hand in Hand and UnBarred. Both are well loved as drinking venues but have prioritised brewery production and takeaway/delivery as a mechanism to keep revenue rolling in. Neither feel it’s the right time to fully reopen their bars due to lack of space – or as Jordan, Head Brewer at UnBarred, explains it: “We are a production brewery with a taproom, and we can’t compromise our production site.”

 

‘Unprecedented’ is a word that we expect will have shot up in Google’s use-over-time ranking this year, and if you feel like it’s an unprecedented level of procedure to simply enter and enjoy a pint, spare a thought for the owners, management and staff in pubs who are bending over backwards to accomodate people, and yet still can’t fill their pubs and run their businesses at the level they used to.

Pubs used to be that reliable place to congregate freely, meet a group of people spontaneously or even go out specifically to meet new people, but that’s just not possible in the current climate. If you do arrange a pub trip, you might experience the new quirks of relatively arduous systems in order to book, record your entry and order a drink; but if like us you’ve done this a few times now, it quickly becomes the norm. Many people will have faced the disappointment of finding their local full when they arrive because they couldn’t just turn up like the old days. We’d always recommend messaging or ringing ahead to make sure there’s space or trying to arrange your visit outside of peak times to alleviate bottlenecks if you can.

On the whole though it really does feel like you can enjoy the old atmosphere of a pub in a safe and conscientious way and we saw many signs that as much was being done as possibly could be, to run a pub safely in the current situation. Whether you feel safe enough to do so will probably be a pub-by-pub decision, and come down to the time you decide to go, how busy the place is relative to its size, whether the pub is operating table service (which is for us the best way of reducing people moving about) and how many people the pub is willing to allow to enter the space as walk-ins.

 

We hope we have given you a glimpse of what to expect, and the confidence to venture back out to your local and see how they are making an effort to ensure their pub is safe to frequent.

Finally we’d like to say particular thanks to all the people staffing pubs across the city – particularly the people we’ve met over the past couple of weeks who brought us our drinks and spent time chatting with us about their procedures and how it was all going. You all seemed genuinely happy to be working and to see customers filling the tables again.

We all benefit from a vibrant pub scene in Brighton, and and we wish you and your pubs all the best going forward.

1 Comment

  1. Tractix Support

    What a brilliant insightful article. Tractix http://www.tractix.co.uk offer Barcode – QR Scanning and if you would like it for 300 Days at no cost we would be happy to offer this to all Brighton Companies involved in the Hospitality Industry. Get rid of the paper and pen method, do it seamlessly using technology, no need to store data for 21 days we will do that and ensure you are GDPR Compliant. Simply send an email to support@tractix.co.uk and we will sort it for you.

    Reply

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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