Those Perspex screens separating some customers from others – and separating customers from serving staff. These measures will all form part-and-parcel of the loss of that ‘socialisation’ that’s characterised the Irish pub for countless generations.
Quite understandably all these measures have been deemed part of any ‘new reality’ for pubs re-opening post-Covid-19.
But realistically we have to consider them as temporary.
For by its very nature, this new reality is one that cannot be sustained by the country’s pubs.
The very thing that attracts people in society to the pub in the first place – its very ‘sociability’ – will have been lost.
Who’d want to drop into their local if these restrictions remained in place, two metres apart and only allowed filter in a few at a time?
So it’s best to look on any such social distancing measures to be introduced as being for the short-term only or pubs – like restaurants – could no longer afford to pay their way in business.
What pub could afford the cost of Satellite TV for just a few customers watching Premier League?
What outlet could afford the cost of a Special Exemption Order if it only covered a few late-night revellers?
As a sector we have to believe that once this virus has been defeated by the eventual introduction of anti-virals/vaccines these protective measures can be dismantled and the on-trade can get back to doing what it does best – providing an environment conducive to conversation and socialising, for it’s that very proximity of people to each other that creates the pub’s unique atmosphere.
And believe it or not, there is a silver lining to this Covid-19 cloud. If anything has been learned in this it’s that we’ll need to respond a lot more quickly to the next viral pandemic.
For Covid-19 is unlikely to be the last such epidemic and the experience of this one’s economic and social effects should go a long way towards making us much better prepared for when the next one comes along.
And there will be a next one.
But until that next one comes along it doesn’t mean that any Covid-19 precautions to be introduced in the months to come must remain an unwelcome resident in our pubs indefinitely.