Scenes in Soho on so-called #SuperSaturday were endlessly posted on Twitter. I didn’t see a single positive (sensible) comment – but plenty were calling out the irresponsibility of the bars and drinkers.
I had a brief twitter exchange with @MPSoho, the Met Police team for Soho (Amy Lame the Governments’ Night Time Czar and Mayor of London failed to respond). MPSoho said that bars were operating at a reduced capacity, not doing takeaways, and that people were bringing their own booze into the Soho area. Police were clearly visible in the photos both on the ground in the crowd and (weirdly) in some kind of lookout tower. The Sun’s PR posted a photo of herself with a £14 Soho cocktail in a weird show of solidarity (there’s a story in a sentence if ever there was one).
Soho was widely covered on mainstream media this morning and presented by some as indicative of the rest of the country. It was not. Across the country tens of thousands of responsible pub folks, after months of lockdown, took a financial hit by opening in line with government guidelines or by not opening at all. Many asked customers not adhering to guidelines to leave their venues. Let’s not forget that these guidelines – while not themselves laws – are backed-up by pretty stringent legal regulations. Police and licensing officers visited huge swathes of town and rural pubs to check they were complying.
In my own personal opinion the scenes in Soho were permitted in a “hey, look at everybody having fun rebooting the economy!” way and I’m struggling to see who the winners are.
The Government loses by appearing to have lifted restrictions too early.
The Soho bars lose as people think they are acting irresponsibly (by the way one bar is offering half-price drinks 3-8pm so tbh that might be justified).
The police lose because people are questioning why large crowds of (mainly white, middle class) were allowed to congregate while smaller, private, house parties were being raided and shut down across less trendy parts of London.
Responsible publicans lose as they spend money they don’t have to meet guidelines and operate at a reduced capacity. They they lose again as potential customers think “not likely!” and don’t visit their local for a quiet pint.
Soho last night was NOT indicative of the pub industry. You simply can’t have one rule for central London and another rule for everyone else.
At the beginning of May I tweeted a thread about things pubs should be thinking about before re-opening. At the risk of tooting my own horn many have turned out to be right (I'm expecting my call from Boris soon). Here's that list - if you're on Twitter you can find me @elainewalton.
What do you think? Since I posted these tweets pubs have re-opened in Australia utilising perspex screens between tables and contact-tracker sheets (ID of each customer in case there is a case in the pub). I see more pubs researching 'pods' of various shapes and sizes for their gardens to maximise their covers (and in preparation for the inevitable Summer rain). I'd be really interested to know what you're doing to prepare your pub for re-opening - let me know in the comments or drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like your pub to be featured here.
I understand pubs and I understand social media. This is a personal blog and doesn't necessarily reflect the views of any persons or companies I work with/for. You can reach me at email@example.com