The Return to Pubs


It may be true that the sofa is more comfortable than the bar stool. But few of us will miss the comfortable seat of confinement once the world allows us freedom. There will be a re-evaluation on the meaningfulness of social interaction. The tactile exchanges and the warmth of an enveloping hug.

Hopefully, we will reprioritise friendships alongside hospitality. Yes, pubs are hugely important, but it goes without saying that people are more important. We need to support one another.

That casual drink with a mate and all of the camaraderie. Those tiny acts of love, humility and friendship – they are sanity for the soul. Don’t let them become historic. Never forget the days of being delighted to see one another. Of picking a pub with a friend near to your destination or even a pub as your destination. Because the days where all we had to think about in advance of greeting one another was to ask: “What are you having?” Those memories are golden.

Back in our homes, our worlds have become smaller. But lockdown has reminded us all rather a lot about community spirit. Small acts of kindness can go a long way. Perhaps we are only just beginning to learn the true importance of being neighbourly.

It has been mentioned before that adversity often pushes us to become more compassionate. But we all wish we could have been saved the heartache of the ‘tough love’ approach this time. Granted, the hard times show us how we will always try to find ways to help others in need, if we can. But we’re all hurting a lot right now. And so many of us are angry. Really furious. None of it feels fair and we want to make it known.

We are a nation trapped somewhere between fear and frustration and there’s evidence wherever we look that many are reaching their tolerance threshold. Hold tight everyone, we are told, but at a safe distance. Each business owner who is managing to operate within the confines of so many new and challenging restrictions and contradictions, keep going.

While being led by the supine, there’s a sneaking feeling that suggests we are losing faith in the advice we are being given. Some of us have started making our own rules. And the tail is, indeed, wagging the dog.

But remember that each of us are disenfranchised from normality and also from choice. And there is something about the parallel psychological confinement that sends us all a bit mad. Things are difficult and trying for everyone right now, in so many different ways. But comparison or resentment are distractions, not caring actions. Let’s remember that love and compassion are still valid responses to things going wrong.  Good mood or bad mood. Let’s face it, everyone’s temper is changeable right now. However we get through, get through we must. We are in this together.

In days gone by, the pub was the place where community thrived. Not the booze as such, but the atmosphere. The pub has always been a seine haul for any troubles, so it is no surprise that it has been a challenge to tackle thoughts, feelings and anxieties with friends via the flatness of screens.

The pub was the place people could be themselves. Being a part of something, having a sense of belonging simply feels good. If you’ve ever felt alone in a new town, you’ll be able to reminisce about the feeling. Forget where you can buy the cheapest drink. Think of the place that makes you feel most like a piece of the furniture. That’s the one you should return to and support.

Through pubs we have combated loneliness for centuries. They are places where we can foster togetherness, but not just in the physical sense. Talking and listening plays a vital role in our mental health. And, when our hearts and minds thrive, we become better people.

Sitting and enjoying the presence of others going about their day and their lives helps us to notice different perspectives. It makes us better at recognising social diversity and learn to appreciate and admire others. And, as a result, pubs help us to glean an ever-developing and better stance on equality. In many ways, noticing all our differences forces us to notice, within those, our similarities. As people, we become more accepting of differing opinions, lives and outlooks.

The public house is meant to be just that: A home for everyone. Even when we are not talking, in the pub there has always existed the unique solitary benefit of feeling involved or connected to the lives of others. It is a place that is a reminder that we are all participants in life and what is important is that we all feel valued.

Drinking culture is a funny thing, really. That quiet interaction between people who want to spend time in one another’s company is incredibly precious. Because we don’t get together for the sake of liquid. We get together because to talk and share and interact is the very fabric of what it means to be alive.

If you’re struggling right now, know that your struggle is not madness creeping in – it is normal. It means you have a working heart. Because it is only human to need people and to want others. We reach out, not for what numbs us, but what makes us feel something. It is why so many of us feel at sea right now. We thrive on sharing. And we are being told to avoid one another.

We need to give the pub some credit. Here and later. But, most importantly, when our nation’s publicans need us to show it most – when they open their doors once again and wonder if any of us will walk through them. When the time is right, we need to be there. We need to show them they matter.

These places, they purvey empathy, not just alcohol. In their own strange and unique way, the best public houses evoke feelings of inclusion and relaxed joy. We don’t get that from a lot of places. Pubs make us better at understanding one another. They have given us so much mirth and laughter. We owe it to them to give something back. Let’s try.

Drinks Maven