On July 4, Are Kolltveit will welcome back his regular customers for the first time since March 20, when the government closed all Britain’s pubs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was an unprecedented step. Britain’s pubs have traded uninterrupted since medieval times, including through two world wars. The Chandos Arms, which opened in 1912, served fighter pilots training at the Hendon Aerodrome in World War One.
“We’re excited, obviously, but we’re also somewhat worried,” Kolltveit told Reuters. “With social distancing in place it’s obviously a very different experience to come to the pub, but we have tried to the best of our capabilities to put measures in place to make it a safe environment for customers and staff alike.”
Many of the elements that define a pub will be missing when they reopen. With numbers limited, there will be no crowds on a Friday or Saturday night, no standing at the bar, no live music.
A record of customers will be kept, challenging the ethos of a public house open to all without membership or registration.
Nonetheless, Kolltveit said the essential welcoming atmosphere will be in place on Saturday, when pubs in England can reopen. Northern Ireland is one day earlier, while Scotland and Wales follow later in July.
He said customers were keen to come back. “The interest has been tremendous,” he added, with 20 tables prebooked already.
Alan Fraser, a 62-year-old machine operator, said the reopening was “absolutely brilliant” news. “I will go, I will have a pint of real ale,” he said.
Campaign group Long Live The Local said its research showed 29% of people were happy or excited at the prospect of going to a pub this summer, and one in four were planning a visit within a month of reopening.
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