“You don’t have to go home, but you sure as hell can’t stay here…”
As pubs in London start to shut down due to Covid yet again, they aren’t just kicking out their regulars, they’re also kicking out a group of workers who have made the local watering hole their “office” while they “work from home” over the last few months. Several of these workers were highlighted by the Wall Street Journal.
For example, Matthew Edwards found out during the pandemic that paying £20 for four hours of Wi-Fi, lunch, coffee and a pint of beer – all while working somewhere that’s less distracting than his home – was a great deal. He set up his “office” at the King’s Head pub in London.
“It’s like being in the office, to be honest with a slightly nicer environment,” he told the WSJ. Despite skepticism from his family and friends, he says the lack of distractions have made him the “most productive he has been in months.”
“It’ll be back to me at one end of the kitchen table and my wife at the other I imagine,” he said about the pubs closing this week.
King’s Head General Manager Gary Willison fully supports what he calls “pub desking” – after all, the pubs desperately need the business. He has been opening at 10AM to serve brunch, while most pubs still don’t open until noon, when workers first sneak in a pint. Chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association Emma McClarkin said: “Pubs have had to adapt.”
Another worker, 38 year old Stefanie Seed, found solace at the North Bar Social pub. She said after a tough day of work, she could treat herself to a pint of cider. “It felt like such a reward,” she said.
Labour Party staffers Megan Kneafsey and Robert Littleton would set up shop at the Bull & Gate in north London’s Kentish Town. They said working at the pub “felt like home” so much so, that they are planning their wedding reception there next year. Kneafsay said she used to bring her laptop to the pub before Covid, and it would often draw stares from customers. Now, it’s become far more acceptable socially.
Hunter Ruthven also took up shop at the Bull & Gate, paying £15 for Wi-Fi, unlimited tea and coffee, and a lunch. “It’s something I’m prepared to pay for maybe once a fortnight,” he said.
James Melville, managing director of a public-relations firm based in southern England says he takes work at the pub one day a week. “They’ve got these snug areas and you can go into these opposite ‘breakout’ rooms,” he said of his local pub, the Punchbowl & Ladle. He commented on the shutdowns: “I think it’s a real shame. I’m going to make the most of it while I can.”
The closure of pubs for Covid marked the first time Brits were without them “in documented history,” WSJ notes. Beer was flowing at pubs even during the Blitz and Great Plague of 1665.
When they re-opened over the summer, business boomed. But a resurgence of Covid has politicians around the world nervous about re-opening their respective economies and the U.K. will see its pubs once again close entirely until December 2.