bristol pubs

Notes on pubs in Tier 1+

Humans are terrible at risk assessment, aren’t they?

People who were not going out when new cases were at around 20-30 a day and were stable or falling, are now happily visiting pubs with cases at 250 a day and rising. Great British Common Sense in action.

Graph of cases in Bristol showing steep rise.

Daily cases in Bristol as of 30 October 2020 via Public Health England.

At the time of writing, Bristol is in something the local authorities are calling ‘Tier 1+’ and is, we think, the biggest English city not to be facing higher-level restrictions.

We’re not really sure why – the rate of infection is actually higher than in some Tier 3 locations.

It’s possibly because hospital admissions remain low (although we know how that goes) or perhaps we just haven’t flashed up on the superforecasting spreadsheet yet.

Tier 1 isn’t completely unrestricted. It still requires pubs and restaurants to be closed by 10, seated table service and masks to be worn when not seated. As for who’s allowed to meet where… Well, this is part of the issue.

We seem to have moved completely away from principles – try to minimise your social contacts – and into a series of overlapping and confusing rules that give the impression that all is well and that you have permission to socialise.

This, plus limited support for pubs, along with a sense that it might all be taken away any day now, creates this weird moral pressure for consumers like us who love pubs and desperately want them to survive.

We’re not the only people we know who have upped our pub-going in the last month, despite the fact that it’s almost certainly more dangerous now in Bristol than it’s ever been.

Even in the comparative luxury of Tier 1, things certainly don’t feel normal.

We spent an hour in a pub in a student area on Saturday afternoon, sitting outside near the entrance, and saw some perhaps understandably bizarre behaviour.

“How many are you?” asks the bouncer.
“Er… two groups of four.”
(The limit is six.)

Then there was this:

“Please put a mask on if you’re standing up and moving about the pub.”
“I can’t. I’m only going for a fag. Uh, I’ve lost it.”
“Have a disposable one.”
“Ugh, fine, whatever.”
The mask is crammed into a pocket.

The staff were working so hard, and doing their utmost to stay cheerful, but it must be utterly soul destroying dealing with this lack of consideration, day in, day out, while knowing you’re still probably not making enough with reduced opening hours to pay the necessary army of greeters and serving staff.

Having said that, a few times lately, we’ve gone out with the intention of supporting our favourite pubs only to find them too busy to accommodate us.

It’s good news for them, maybe, but also worrying.

When you see a pub full to (reduced) capacity with condensation running down the windows you can’t help but think… What the hell are we doing?

This was inspired by Rowan Molyneux’s excellent piece about moving into Tier 2.

7 replies on “Notes on pubs in Tier 1+”

Here’s the situation in Tier 3 Greater Manchester (I think…): someone who wants to support their local (non-food) pub by walking down the road, buying a pint or two and drinking in the safety of the beer garden, then walking home again afterwards, isn’t allowed to, because the pub has been forced to shut.

But – because travel into and out of Tier 3 isn’t illegal, it’s just “strongly advised against” – that same person could get on a bus or tram, ride into town, then get onto a train and head to anywhere just outside the Tier 3 area, which last time I checked included places like Macclesfield, Knutsford, Wilmslow, Huddersfield (not for long), Leeds (ditto) or Chester, or even be down in London in 2.5 hours. They could then go on a multi-pub crawl, get as pissed up as they like, and then come back via public transport, with or without adequate face covering, social distancing and/or hand-washing etc. en-route, depending on their state of mind, merrily spreading their viral load as they go.

It’s almost as if the government hasn’t actually thought anything through properly and just made a knee-jerk reaction to close a sub-set of the places they’re hardly likely to visit themselves…

After a couple of goes I think our lot have twigged that the whack-a-mole local lockdown strategy doesn’t work for long. We’re on full-fat top-tier restrictions nationally until 1st December and there’s a general recognition that this will be lifted to allow Christmas shopping and Christmas to happen, and will be followed immediately by a return to full restrictions in early January as the numbers inevitably go back up.

Think if you are going to pubs with condensation running down the windows and rammed pubs, you are going to the wrong places. Not many pubs open here, but those that were invariably were bloody freezing to allow ventilation. While undoubtedly there are and were exceptions, most seemed to me to be doing the right thing. Result, feel safe, but they were for the most part a touch soulless.

A bit academic now though as most of my favourites are firmly closed.

On a more general point, when people get fed up – and they are – they take more chances.

I disagree that humans are terrible at risk assessment,it is clear that people appreciate the risk of catching coronavirus and are taking balanced precautions such as hand washing and mask wearing to limit their exposure to a viral load whilst at the same time getting on with their lives and allowing others to get on with theirs. The hospitality industry is not a major contributor towards the spread of coronavirus and further restrictions on it will do nothing to reduce the spread of the virus. Darren T’s example of an infected person travelling from Manchester to London to get drunk and spread the virus does not make sense as a person who is knowingly infected will feel quite ill and will not be keen on a long train journey. The appropriate course of action is to manage any outbreak of the virus by continuing to take precautions to reduce the impact of the viral load if you happen to catch it,suppression of the virus only defers outbreaks to the future

John: masks don’t protect the wearer; Covid has a long asymptomatic contagious period so the “knowingly” bit invalidates your argument; and no outbreak has ever been managed as you describe without a vaccine existing.

It may be comforting to think these things but they’re at odds with reality.

I disagree,outbreaks of influenza in 1918 to 1920 and 1968 to 1969 were managed in this way without vaccination as were other contagious diseases including polio and measels

There are some very mixed messages coming out from the scientific community, so it’s difficult to know exactly how to act. The government are following the advice of their SAGE committee, which is based on the worst case scenario, which may not necessarily come to pass.

They don’t appear to be considering any alternative viewpoints, even though there are quite a few, so HMG’s blinkered approach isn’t helping. It’s not offering much assistance either to those of us who just want to carry on with our lives, but in a responsible sort of way.

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