Pubs closed until Christmas: separating the facts from the headlines

News travels fast these days, but once again misinformation has quickly muddled the message and panic is the rule of the day.

Right in the middle of typing up yesterday’s blog post a message popped up on my phone from a friend watching an interview with Michael Gove, the gist of which was that pubs would be the last in the queue to re-open during a phased easing of the lockdown which was being considered. ‘Pubs back open by the middle of summer,’ was the conclusion my friend had reached.

So imagine my surprise this morning to find everyone on Facebook screaming that pubs would be shut until Christmas, because the likes of The Metro and the Daily Mail had decided to lead with headlines such as:-

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Upon reading the article I came to a different conclusion. Yes, Michael Gove had responded to a question about whether pubs would be open by winter by saying that pubs and restaurants would be the last venues to re-open when it comes time to ease the present lockdown restrictions.

But…was a timetable given? No. Were any promises made? No. Was this news a surprise? Not to me. Days ago I had spoken to a customer while they collected their order from outside the door to the premises and I mentioned that even if pubs are allowed to re-open in the coming weeks that social distancing measures would still need to be adhered to until there’s a vaccine.

The same article quoted a brewer who said something along the lines of ‘at this rate we won’t be open until Christmas.’ I found the remark to be rather sardonic in tone. I most certainly didn’t get the impression that the brewer was privy to government strategy. But for an irresponsible journalist, that was all that was needed to justify a headline claiming that pubs would stay closed until Christmas.

By this point we should be used to a government minister refusing to give a clear position about our leaders’ plans for the future. But clearly this time the usual dearth of detail from a government minister, combined with irresponsible journalism, had whipped the public into new heights of hysteria…and no doubt sold a few newspapers in the process.

Perhaps those panicking at Monday’s headlines had already forgotten what was published in those exact same newspapers the day before:-

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Again, this is not the official timetable, as far as anyone can (or will) tell. Certain government figures have been on the news again today insisting schools are not opening anytime soon (but let’s not forget the Prime Minister kept making it quite clear that schools would not close, right up until announcing the date when they would).

Rumours, panic, indecisiveness, obfuscation, blame-shifting…everything we don’t need in a time of crisis is pretty much all we’re hearing from our leaders (which leads me to suspect that there isn’t a cohesive strategy and/or that there’s a power struggle taking place behind the scenes). In the meantime it is left to us to decide how best to struggle on.

What does this mean for us, the publicans and pubgoers of Britain? Here’s a clue, from a news article I was reading about social distancing measures in the workplace:-

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In my next few blog posts I’ll explain how I’m continuing to trade from my premises and talk about coping with the ‘new normal.’

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