As a nation of pub-goers we’ll need no excuse to prop up the UK’s bars
There are some things we still do best in the UK.
Fish and chips, self-deprecation, the ability to be irrationally cheered by one afternoon of sunshine and moderately warm temperatures.
But perhaps our greatest gift to the world is the British pub. To borrow an awful phrase, we are genuinely world-beating when it comes to public houses.
Pubs are in our DNA.
Perhaps it’s the climate; that need for a warm, welcoming home-from-home to get us through the darker months.
Perhaps it’s the sense of escape from our work or domestic lives; a place you can be yourself, whether that’s alone for a quiet drink, or with a group of mates on a Friday night.
It hardly needs to be said: there have been more serious losses and more life-altering challenges over the past 13 months than the enforced closure of pubs.
Yet somehow the fact that all of the UK’s pubs - all 47,000 of them - have been shuttered for so long has lent these past few months an even more apocalyptic feel.
Today - or last night, for the super-keen - pubs in England reopened their doors for the first time this year.
Yes, it’s only outdoor hospitality. Yes, it snowed in April. But it’s a start.
In Scotland and Wales the wait will be over on 26 April, while a timeline has yet to be confirmed for Northern Ireland.
As well as the ales on tap in England today, there was something else: relief.
A relief that finally things are beginning to return to some kind of normality.
Alcohol is only part of a good pub’s appeal. It’s a combination of multiple factors: the atmosphere, the regulars, the dartboard, the surly barman, the old man in the corner with his newspaper, the dog asleep amid the chaos.
It’s the chance to catch up, to converse, to feel part of a community again. To be surrounded by complete strangers and feel somehow connected.
That feeling really comes across in this story today about beer gardens reopening in England. Chris Driver, owner of The Derry in Stockton-on-Tees, spoke for many landlords when he said: “You can tell people have been wanting a taste of normality.”
He added: "You almost can’t get away from tables as people just want to talk.”
Today was just the first step in the return of the Great British Pub.
It won’t be plain sailing. A recent report estimated that around 10,000 licenced premises went out of business as a result of the pandemic in 2020.
It’s an industry that’s been on hiatus for the best part of a year, but it dates back almost two millennia. It’s nothing if not resilient.
So when the time comes where you live, let’s get back down the local and raise a glass to Britain’s pubs.
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