I’ve been pretty positive about the return of pubs, but this week in Devon I found myself a little (silently) irritated about a few of the ways Covid compliance was being applied. No admittance without a table booking, drinkers outside only, payment via the app only.

Just for the record, that makes me a prat. Publicans are doing a tremendous job in tough circumstances, trying to make pubs welcoming but safe, and a little inconvenience won’t hurt me.

Here’s an example of a publican doing a great job welcoming folk back to the pub. You’ve met Tom at the Hare & Hounds already.


He tempted me back on a Thursday lunchtime with the “B” word.

You know what’s coming next.

Doh, it’s just gone” said Tom, ALMOST apologetically, as my face dropped (kidding, it’s always looked like that). That’s the problem with occasional stockists. 80-odd pints sold in 2 days, apparently. Good grief.

Not to worry Tom. I’m not THAT big a fan of Bass, it’s all for show“.

To be honest, I wanted to see how Tom’s legendary cellarmanship was shaping up 3 weeks in. And Nene Valley are dead good. Just not Bass.

I’ll be honest. I thought I’d be the only customer on a Thursday lunchtime between “Rishi Days” and the weekend, asking Tom the same questions I’d asked him a fortnight before.

But by 12:15 it was filling up with gentlefolk.


Gentlefolk with more muscles than me having cycled from Melbourn (not THAT Melbourne, yet), or walked round Barrington cement works.

The pits

I love the sight of a pub unexpectedly filling up. Tom greeted them all with the same easy charm, and made the two who wanted to wear their masks inside as welcome as those who didn’t.

Are you a handle or a straight” he asked the beer drinkers.

I’d rated the beers in that first week good; here the Nene Valley was NBSS 3.5 and 4. The pie of the day was off the scale.

It gets no better

I berated the villagers for drinking the Bass, but silently rejoiced at a pub selling 4 pints, a half and a coffee within 5 minutes of opening.

Try the Nene Valley, it’s very….toothsome“. Wow, I’m in a grown-ups pub, like that one I finished Surrey at.

There was more going on than in a Mike Leigh play, with Tom playing Mike.

And then it struck me. The village had its pub back. After FIVE months cooped up watching Narcos they were able to chat to their mates, complain about Tom’s music choice (Blur, Nick Drake, John Grant) and hold court.

And drink wonderful beer, but you know that’s secondary.

They’ve got their pub back.


  1. The inevitable box-ticking of different pubs COVID response can be a bit irritating, but as you say, it’s much less of a problem for us customers than licensees so “that’s fine” is always the correct response even if there’s a nagging feeling that some are applying ‘rules’ without really thinking about what they actually achieve.

    Yesterday we were in a good micro, albeit one I’ve always found the customers way more friendly than the staff. Sitting drinking beer with a friend was obviously fine, shuffling our Dominoes on the table not so for hygiene reasons. Quite why I’ve absolutely no idea, but only a dick would’ve questioned it so we enjoyed our beers, went to another micro, and shuffled our Doms.

    Have you noticed that in some places some of the rules and protocols applied in July have been quietly dropped? Interesting times…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There’s been a few occasions (out of 100+ pub visits) where I felt a bit told off (“You need to stand at the side of the bar”, “you can’t approach the bar”, “you must stand on the circle”) and was sure no reasonable person could have worked out what to do but my sympathy was with the pubs.

      I know what you mean about pubs feeling relaxed, but I don’t recognise the hysteria about pubs not following the rules. Only Spoons haven’t ensured track and trace, and they’ve tightened up to be fair. I’ve never felt too close to anyone else.


  2. An excellent post Martin, and good to see trade at a village local not just doing well, but thriving. Proof, it were needed, that it’s not necessary to drive hundreds of miles across the country to find that perfect pub – only kidding!!

    In my admittedly, much more limited, post reopening experiences to date, the rules do seem to vary quite widely from pub to pub; as are the way they are interpreted. I haven’t yet come across paying via app, and wouldn’t want to as I don’t conduct any financial transactions by mobile phone!

    One pub I visited required a QR code to be scanned, and then registration – presumably as a means of track and trace. On that subject, I’ve only been asked to supply contact details in around half of the pubs I’ve visited so far. I’m not bothered either way – I just want a pint!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “He tempted me back on a Thursday lunchtime with the “B” word.”

    LOL! Classic!

    “Doh, it’s just gone”


    “Not to worry Tom. I’m not THAT big a fan of Bass, it’s all for show“.

    Sigh. And folks wonder why I’m a cynic. 😉

    “But by 12:15 it was filling up with gentlefolk.”

    Ok. The guy in the red shirt with the mask looks like he really needs the mask!

    “(not THAT Melbourne, yet), ”

    Isn’t it still in lockdown?

    “The pits”

    Argh! (slow golf clap)

    ““Are you a handle or a straight””

    I’d have to say straight. Wait; didn’t realise we were talking about beer handles. 😉

    “It gets no better”

    Is that Keen’s mustard in the background?

    “They’ve got their pub back.”

    (cheers silently)

    Cheers 🙂


  4. I wouldn’t be quite so charitable. Covid seems to have unleashed the inner jobsworth in many licensees, with restrictions being imposed in some places that go well beyond what the guidelines imply, are totally unnecessary, or are just plain daft. It’s on things like this where pubs benefit from being part of a large group so that someone in head office can look into it and come up with a coherent system rather than expecting everyone to make it up as they go along.

    And a half-decent lawyer would drive a coach and horses through the GDPR compliance of most track and trace systems.


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