IT'S still up in the air for the pubs, because of what would be up in the air if they opened. Maybe the the two-tier system will be unified on August 10 and the pub-pubs will be open, along with the foodier places.
It has to be said, up top: I’ll do what I’m told. The experts have to make one decision and one size doesn’t fit all. That’s fair enough. But, I still think there has been a bit of '€9 nosh' nonsense.
For a start, some people are taking the mick anyway, with reports of pizza boxes and clean plates being left on the table to make it look like there is eating going on. That's the pub equivalent of putting pillows under your duvet to make your parents think you were still in bed.
Then, the exclusion of thousands of small pubs might itself have created risks. Because nowhere was open, people were coming from far and wide to the places that could open. They might have been technically socially distanced when they were in there, but surely they left some exotic soup of breath and germs from many different places. You don’t know what they’re at in the next parish.
And I think there wasn’t enough appreciation for what many pubs are like.
A lot of rural pubs have been practising social distancing for the last 30 years, as drink-driving campaigns were gradually toughened from ‘Stick To Six’ to ‘You Can Drive With Five’ to ‘Four and No More’, up to the present campaign of ‘FFS Will Ye Stop It, Ye Gobshites’.
Add to that the tendency in rural pubs to mind one’s own business and general silence and muttering. There wouldn’t be a load of people wandering in anyway, because they’d be stared out of it if they asked Johnny Pat for a latte with almond milk.
Pint-and-that’s-it patrons were infantilised. As if, when faced with a pub, we would be unable to control ourselves and would have vaulted the bar, supping from the tap and slapping each other with slops-j-cloths. That is largely true, but there wasn’t an effort to consider what makes pubs magical.
Surely, there must have been some room in the rule-book for the socially-distanced, impromptu, solitary, afternoon pub visit? Where you order silently, by pointing, retreat to a dark corner with the paper, take off your mask, drink, think, wave 'Same again' and leave after an hour? If it’s a meal, it’s a classic toasted sandwich in a bag. Not the €9 kind, but the €6 kind: Brennan’s bread or equivalent, ham, tomato onion, slice of cheese, a few catering-bag crinkly crisps. No need for a wooden scaffolding to keep it together, and served on a plate, not a piece of slate or Gyproc or banana leaf. You come out slightly wobbly; not drunk, but in no fit state for work.
It makes you think about the English and their habit of having a pint at lunchtime. You’d definitely take your eye off the ball. No wonder they ended up being ruled by Dominic Cummings.
How do you make people leave after an hour and a bit? There must have been imaginative solutions: An alarm clock at the table, pretend to set up the band near them, ask them about their feelings,
Or, heck, just have closing time at 8pm. Let everyone go home to their families and watch She-Ra Princess of Power on Netflix.
As I said before: Experts, go make your decision.
I’ll do what I’m told. But if you open the pub, I promise I’ll go home after the one. OK, two max.