Is it wrong to poke around in the ruins looking for something to be optimistic about? Maybe, possibly, all this will help revive the neighbourhood corner pub.
Of course we can only ever be tentative and won’t be remotely surprised if things go in the opposite direction, towards disaster, but indulge us.
First, we know that city centres are struggling as many people continue to work from home.
The narrative has coalesced around coffee and sandwich shops but central pubs, too, rely on commuters hanging around for a pint or two with colleagues.
Without birthday drinks and leaving drinks and fuck-it-it’s-Thursday drinks, they’re reliant on determined, deliberate pubgoers.
The few times we’ve been into town lately, pubs and bars have seemed quiet – handy for distancing purposes but not if you want to pay staff, pay suppliers and keep the lights on.
Local pubs out in the suburbs, meanwhile, though also struggling, seem to be doing a little better.
After all, sticking your nose in at the local is low commitment: you wander round and if there’s space, you stay; if not, you wander on, or get takeaway. And if it gets uncomfortably crowded, you can go home.
The Foresters Arms, a pub near us, has struggled through the last few years with periods of closure, changes of management and a basic Guinness-n-sport offer in an area which has all but fully gentrified.
Now, though, it’s buzzing seven days a week. We’ve never seen it so busy or so alive. Peeking through the side door on our daily walks we’ve noticed quite a few of the regulars from The Drapers Arms in the (sensibly distanced) crowd – not their first choice, perhaps, but maybe somewhere they’ve come to appreciate in recent months.
We’ve certainly become less fussy. On Monday, at the end of a long walk to Keynsham, we ended up drinking Peroni in an edge-of-town pub and loving it. Well organised, spacious and friendly beats central in 2020.
On that note, we’ve also wondered if this might be the saving of some of those big inter-war pubs you find on the outskirts of towns.
A year ago, people talked about ‘rattling round sterile barns’.
Now, as our ideas of busy and close have been forcibly re-calibrated, that’s distinctly more appealing.