Last orders Pub customers keep calm and drink up
Pubs in Penge, south-east London, had started filling up well before the prime minister’s announcement yesterday that they must close down – and no one showed signs of leaving.
The high street still had five out of six pubs open as Boris Johnson addressed the nation. At one pub there were surreal scenes as the bigscreen TVs beamed Downing Street’s daily press conference that carried news of one of the most wideranging peacetime changes to British life, while, underneath them, games of pool continued.
Shortly after the announcement, as the prime minister was still speaking, one customer headed out to call a friend: “Listen, you’d better hurry up and get here because all the pubs are shutting at 7pm. Hurry up,” he was heard to say.
Meanwhile, the Birds pub in Leytonstone, north-east London, was less busy than normal for a Friday evening. Caitlin Morgan and her colleague Nick Slotnick, from Woodford, said: “It’s sad but inevitable. It had to happen.”
In Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, staff at Dulcimer seemed mostly relieved they would be forced to close. Chris Henry, manager at the fine ales pub that also serves food and hosts live music events, said the announcement brought an end to their “limbo”.
“We got put in the position where it wasn’t in the best interests for our customers’ health to be open but no one said we should be closed,” said Henry. “It’s been a horrible week.”
At the Fork ‘n’ Ale taproom in Weston-super-Mare, owner Dave Turner was letting customers finish their pints and meals. “The prime minister has said we’ve got to close as soon as is reasonable,” he said. “I think that means that we should let our customers finish their drinks and meals and when it gets quiet we’ll close.”
Karen Feagin, a PhD linguistics student from Washington DC, had just arrived with her family in the Devil’s Advocate, a famous whisky bar in Edinburgh, when the news came in that ministers had ordered all bars, clubs and museums to close with immediate effect. “We’re sci-fi readers and it feels a little bit like living through some of the books we’ve read,” she said. Which book? “World War Z. We’ve actually had these conversations.”
But her sister-in-law, Hannah Fritschner, was determined to make the most of having her family in Scotland. “I’m trying to enjoy it because once they leave I know I will be here indefinitely,” she said.