I watched a crow peck at something less fortunate as I sat waiting for The RAC at the side of the A30 near Lifton. It struck me how, amongst all the furry and feathered victims that decorate the motorways and dual carriageways of Britain, the lifeless crow is a rare sight. Survivor, I thought.
I'm a delivery driver now; peddling real ales from our brewery to pubsick punters in Devon; Zombies, to give them their affectionate collective term - a monika coined from the conjured vision of pub regulars walking the streets, listless and aimless awaiting the reopening of their second homes.
it's not so much when as how?
When? That seems to be the question that most people want an answer to, but, for me, it's not so much when as how? How do we run a business that is safe and profitable? How are we supposed to rekindle the intimacy and jocularity of the local boozer amid the divisive structure of social distancing? How will we revert to the celebrations and partying whilst retaining our integrity and, not least, the support from the general public. In short, and starkly: how can we provide the sanctuary and pleasure of pubs without people dying as a result?
An initial survey of the interior of our pubs led me to estimate that our capacity will, under the current rules of social distancing, be reduced to around 25 to 30 percent of pre covid numbers. Ouch! Even if we could increase that with the official safe distance being reduced to one metre, it seems that the Track and Trace policy will be working on the basis that being within two metres of someone with symptoms for fifteen minutes or more will require us to self isolate for fourteen days.
There are very few places where you can be within two metres of a stranger for a quarter of an hour. The pub is one of them. This, along with the blurred horizons of many futures, is a cause of anxiety. I have many fears for what The Pub 2.0 will look like and whether it will be an attractive proposition for people when stripped of the ambience and adrenalin induced by the simple act of squeezing a lot of people into a room and putting alcohol in them. I also fear that some publicans, pulled by the need to make money and pushed by regulars pining for a return to normality, will flout the rules.
I can assure you that we will only open when we believe it is safe to do so
I fear social media videos showcasing drunken revellers hugging and mingling in very undistanced ways. Most of all I fear pubs becoming pariahs; lambasted by sections of the media for being dens of disease spreaders, uncaring and unheeding of the dangers inherent in social gatherings. I fear that the actions of a few will damage the hard fought reputation of pubs for being essential to communities and we will instead be known as the place that killed your nan. But these worries do not stop me looking forward to opening the doors again. Nor do they override the hope I have for our future or the faith I have in our customers to do the right thing when the time comes - and I can assure you that we will only open when we believe it is safe to do so, not simply when we are given permission.
So we will be back; we will do whatever it takes to be great places to relax and escape the madness of the outside world again, and we will survive and react to whatever dangers come our way. A bit like that crow on the A30 near Lifton.