Far better writers and commentators than I have summed up this year. They have mused on global political movements, the pandemic, the state of the British hospitality Industry, trends in the world of beer, local issues and other such things of interest and I know this because I have read a lot of them.
I have had a lot of time to read people's opinions on the internet (not that we are in any danger of running out of those) because of our current lockdown and I can sum them up for you as follows: 1. 2020 was very hard 2. But some people worked really hard to look after each other 3. 2021 might be better 4. Or it might be lots worse
The point of this is to say that I do not have anything profound or new to tell you about this year, but I can tell you a little bit about the personal impact. At the beginning of the year I was cautiously optimistic, it felt like our musical calendar was gathering momentum, we put on a steady series of small community events taking place each month and we hosted meet-ups for local groups. We aren't a big destination pub with boat loads of expensive craft, we don't do meals and we are a little bit off the beaten track. It wasn't a smooth journey getting there over the years to 2020 and I know that we were still a long way from "successful & popular" but I am proud of the range of beer and the safe space we created. By the end of February and our 5th birthday the virus wasn't just 'over there' and I wasn't just worried about my friends and family in China but I had no idea what the impact would be. We were lucky that we had begun pivoting towards takeaway and reducing our stock before the first lockdown was imposed, that we implemented table service straightaway, didn't try and manage 2 weeks of Tier 2 and that we are generally too broke to have much to lose as the government's planning has swung wildly in the wind.
What has been harder to navigate than those sudden changes of policy (with minimal & sometimes contradictory guidance) and even harder than explaining rules to drunk people is coping with the sense of being singled out and targeted whilst simultaneously losing the essence of Pub. Not going to lie I have been madly jealous of people in retail; I mean not the over-crowding & people treating you like scum bit but the fundamental assumption that you aren't contributing to the downfall of civilisation as we know it by being open that and the differences in overheads. One of the points of being a pub is that it is not a shop (despite the fact I've largely been operating as one this year) and for that matter it is not a restaurant. For me the main point of running a pub has always been about maintaining a place where people can be with people; whether it is consciously going out with friends, a swift post-work decompress, popping in with the expectation that you will know someone there, hoping to meet someone new or just knowing that people are around you as you listen to the hum of conversation. I hope above and beyond that to encourage people to try drinks they haven't had before but make them feel comfortable enough to reach for the familiar or not drink at all. I want to have a space for up-close personal live music, to offer a venue for local, small and new performers. I want to do daft things for charity, cheer on people playing darts, come up with ridiculous quiz team names and discover new hobbies. Good beer is the medium not the end for me. I can't compete with shop prices, I can't compete with brewery direct delivery, the point has always been not drinking at home. And I feel lost and not sure what the pub is while we are in this situation.
Don't get me wrong I am pretty anti-social, I quite like a few chilled lagers in front of the TV or a nice Impy stout sipped post dinner just me and the Fam. Unlike some people in 'normal times' I usually try and spend at least one whole day a week without speaking to anyone outside my bubble just to decompress and I love the security of having to work when I'm at the pub so I can always escape back to the shadows (i.e. cellar) but I miss the noise and the steady flow of people. I miss it if I don't know I brightened someone's day.
I am worried about some of my regulars, I am worried about their mental and physical health, and their jobs. I am worried that I won't ever open the doors again. I have worried more about this pub and pubs in general than I ever have before. I have cried about how cold and lonely and wrong the pub feels without its lifeblood pulsing through it.
But I am not ready to open the pub up. I am not ready to put my staff at risk. And right now it isn't safe. This year being social has become dangerous and we have yet to find a balance between protecting people by not getting close enough to spread a lethal disease and also not creating a deadly wave of isolation & claustrophobic restrictions. We are not yet in a place to know how long before the vaccines make a difference and no matter what the world will keep on changing.
I don't know what 2021 will bring, I don't know whether a new re-opening will be a new type of pub, if the foundations mean we will hit the ground running or if we will have to spend years building back up and I honestly don't know how many reserves we have either financially or emotionally to keep on waiting and adapting.
I do know that we haven't quit and I do know that you haven't either.
So bring it on. Maybe in 2021 this pub wont stay open but pubs aren't over and I haven't handed on the baton yet.
I aten't Dead