Student Redvers Freeman was the first to arrive at Oxford Arms, a pub in the tourist area of Camden Town, London on Monday (12). Even the fine snow that fell in the morning and the temperature of 3 ºC in mid-spring in the northern hemisphere did not deter the meeting between friends.
“It’s a comeback! It seems like a return to normal, ”he said, holding a glass of beer, to Folha.
After more than three months of lockdown – the third since the start of the pandemic – the UK has entered a new phase of deflation. In England, pubs and restaurants, which have been closed since December, can now serve outdoors, which will not take place in Scotland and Wales until April 26 – no date has yet been set in Northern Ireland.
Many English people still went shopping or going to the hairdresser, as stores and salons were also reopening. Freeman had no doubts about the day’s program. “I cut my hair myself at home. It is not the priority. Today we go to several different pubs, it’s time to take advantage. “
However, this is not a pub trip like it used to be. Upon entry, the customer must provide their name and phone number or access the government tracking app. After sanitizing your hands with alcohol gel, signs on the floor indicate a one-way system to the outside area. On the walls, messages warn of social distancing. As long as you are not sitting down, you must wear a mask and orders can only be placed at tables that can seat a maximum of six people.
Many pubs have created their own apps where you can buy food and drink and make payments, without interacting with attendants or using card dispensers.
After only four months of opening in more than a year of pandemic and an investment of several thousand pounds in adaptations to health requirements, so many rules are scaring homeowners. “During this time, we received a little help from the local government, but nothing compared to normal income. We have to pay rent, employees. We are just surviving for the time being. Due to the restrictive measures, we are operating at one-third of the capacity, ”said director Caroline Maloney.
On the first day of the reopening, everything went to attract customers. A pub in the Bexleyheath area opened at midnight on Monday for just a few hours. The Greyhound Inn in Buxton began serving the traditional English breakfast, which includes toast, beans, sausage and eggs, at 8 a.m. at a temperature of -1 ° C. Guests smiling and delighted took the first meal of the day accompanied by a pint (568 ml beer glass).
But these were in the minority. According to the British Beer and Pubs Association, only 40% of pubs in England – around 15,000 establishments – have been able to reopen. The others have no open land or do not follow the rules imposed by the authorities. Since March of last year, 2.1 billion pints have been left out of service across the UK, a loss of revenue of 8.2 billion pounds (nearly 65 billion reais). In addition, 2,000 establishments have closed their doors due to the pandemic.
Those who have resumed their activities expect to incur losses until they are allowed to serve inside theaters, starting May 17. Pat Logue, owner of Sheephaven Bay, an Irish pub in London frequented by locals and decorated with flags and shirts for football teams, spent the equivalent of R $ 300,000 out of his own pocket to run the business .
“The reopening brings a mixture of feelings. I’m nervous, but I’m also excited about the future. We decided to open up because people need to meet and we need to find people, ”he said. “It’s like starting over, I feel like the first day we open.”
Outside, some customers who gathered around the counter daily saw each other for the first time this year. “I joke that I wish everyone a Happy New Year,” one said. “But I miss the bar, that’s where you see people, talk to strangers.” Going to the pub isn’t just about drinking, it’s talking to people you might never meet again, and it’s a concept we haven’t had in 13 months.
At a time when the British thirst for social contact, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on everyone to ‘act responsibly’. The Prime Minister himself had promised to go to the pub, but canceled the visit out of respect for the death of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
Boris is already facing resistance from the sector, however, due to the possible establishment of a certificate that would allow entry into places with agglomerations, such as nightclubs and pubs, of those who have been vaccinated, has tested negative for coronavirus or has antibodies.
According to the Prime Minister, the measure could contribute to the total reopening of the economy with greater security. These criticisms, however, even come from members of the Conservative Party, of which he is a member.
Anyone who is against the strategy sees it as discriminatory and unnecessary. The containment and vaccination campaign have paid off, and cases and deaths have plummeted. The number of infected people rose from nearly 60,000 on January 9 to 1,544 last Sunday (an average of seven days). To facilitate follow-up, anyone living in England is now entitled to take two free tests per week. More than 32 million people have already received the first dose of the vaccine in the UK, more than 60% of adults.
“The certificate would not work in ads. A lot of people haven’t been vaccinated yet or haven’t taken both doses, ”said Logue, owner of Sheephaven Bay. Anyone who comes to a pub cannot be subject to it. Why would they need it here and not in the supermarkets? Ads are the target of everything. It would be very unfair.