‘It’s a step back to normality’ - City pub goers enjoy their first pint in months
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
Norwich’s pubs have served their first pints in almost four months, but the experience of visiting a pub in July is vastly different to that of three months ago.
For those enjoying their first drink, July 4 was a welcome return to normality while for those behind the bar, the day was a chance to be back in business and the culmination of hours of work to get venues ready.
Hayley-Elizabeth Evans, the director and manager of Mr Postles’ Apothecary on Upper King Street said it was great to be open again.
“I don’t let a lot of things pressure me but when they shut us down I sat at the bar and just cried, [I just thought] this is going to have a massive effect.”
Ms Evans, 34, who has been in the hospitality industry since she was 15 said the next few weeks and months were going to be an “upward battle”, she said: “It’s a big day for hospitality and I’m just grateful that we have got the opportunity to open up.”
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Introducing several measures to keep staff and customers safe, Ms Evans said in order to follow social distancing guidelines the venue had been forced to cut its capacity from 310 to just 60 people.
It was also operating on a table booking system with stays limited to 90-minutes.
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“We chose a 1 1/2 hour stay to make it fair for people, so more could in and enjoy the experience but also to make people safe, the less time they are in here consuming alcohol the less likely they’re to be silly,” she said.
Customers were also being asked to digitally check-in to the venue by scanning a QR code which launches a digital check-in site created by Norwich based company Thyngs, which if needed could be used to help the NHS with contact tracing.
Conor Fraiser, 24 and Lucy Fenick 21, who were among those enjoying a drink in Mr Postles’ said they had no worries and the venue had taken care of everything for them.
Mr Fraiser said: “We just wanted to come out and have a little date together. We got together just before lockdown so we have done a few little dates at home, but we wanted to come out.”
Across the city, Rita McCluskey, landlord of the Adam and Eve, said she had been worried ahead of opening but the day had gone well: “I was worrying about having enough beer, it’s been very difficult to source beer and the brewers were put under a lot of pressure, it’s not something you make over night so that’s what I was worried about.
“It’s been a relentless stream of customers, it’s been lovely.
“Everyone has been really respectful and very patient and gladly following the rules,” she said.
Patzi Westcott, 71, from Norwich who was enjoying a glass of white wine outside the Adam and Eve with a friend said it was “relief” to be able to go to a pub: “It’s a huge relief, I like to be out and to be able to start to a have a normal life, it’s the start.
Ms Westcott, said lockdown had become “very dreary” and although she had had some concerns she was looking forward to things reopening.
“It’s the right time, and I think if there are any hot spots they should do what they’ve done in Leicester,” she said.
A couple of tables over, 18-year-old Issac George from Norwich, who was enjoying a pint with friends said he had found the experience of coming to the pub “perfectly fine.”
“There are safety measures, I was a bit anxious to start with but it’s perfectly fine, if it was a bit busier it would be a bit concerning but it’s nice to be social again.”
While over at the Louis Marchesi, bar manager Ian Stephenson said it hadn’t been too busy, he said he expected things to get busier as time went on and people became more relaxed.
Come the evening and the city’s pubs remained steady, but a far cry from the hustle and bustle of an ordinary Saturday night in June.
Christian Hodgkinson, landlord of the Fat Cat and Canary on Thorpe Road said he “did not sleep a wink” Friday night in anticipation of being able to re-open.
The pub had managed to continue trade through lockdown by providing takeaway beer from a hatch, but this was the first time it served customers on site - albeit not inside the pub’s walls.
He said: “Because the inside is quite narrow we’ve only allowed people indoors to use the toilets and we have sanitising stations as they go in and out. I think we could easily see us being outside only for at least the next two months.”
“We’ve been fairly steady all day and it has been really nice to see lots of familiar smiling faces again. I didn’t really have any expectations for the day but everyone seems in fairly good spirits and is abiding by the rules, which is good.”
Pop-up kitchen The Urban Eatery provided food for patrons of the pub throughout the day, setting up at 7am.
Freddie Griggs, the company director, said: “It has been a really amazing day - it’s definitely been different having to set up a kitchen outside and social distance from our customers and we were a little apprehensive about how it would work, but it’s been really great.”
While the city was far quieter than it would have been in summers gone by, there were visible signs of it coming back to life.
Pubs including the Fat Cat Brewery Tap and the Artichoke welcomed small groups in outdoor seating areas, while there was a queue of around 15 people outside the Queen of Iceni on Riverside at around 6.30pm.
However, while an ordinary Saturday night would likely have seen standing space only in many of these venues, the former Lloyd’s Bar say plenty of free tables in its outdoor area.