The pubs are back but not as we know it


THE NEW NORMAL If you want to enjoy a pint of the black stuff up to August 10, you must be prepared to have a fine feed too. Pic: istock

Out and about

Mark Thornton

Friday night in Castlebar and you arrive in a pub and ask for a menu.
“Sorry, the kitchen’s just closed,” the waitress replies.
“Could I just have a pint of Guinness so?”
This very normal request is far from straightforward. Doing so would be breaking the regulations. They come back and say they can ‘rustle up’ goujons and chips if you want.
You happily accede.
Turns out at €6.50, it is cheaper than the specified cost of a substantial meal but there’s plenty of eating in it.
Plus you get your pint of Guinness and a couple more after it.
Welcome to the reality of getting a pint in Ireland in the summer of 2020.
Pubs which serve food are reopen since June 29.
Pubs who do not serve food are not allowed to reopen until August 10 now. Their reopening had been brought forward to yesterday before last Wednesday it was set back to August 10 once more.
It’s hard on those pubs, especially when you see and hear of several places all over the county firing out pints with no heed paid to the meal requirement nor are they enforcing the length of stay guidelines (one and three quarter hours).
Michael Healy Rae asked the question what’s the difference between a fella with a pint in one hand a cheese sandwich in the other and a fella with just a pint. Aside from the obvious difference being the cheese sandwich, it is reflective of the flux we are in that ticking the box of a ‘substantial meal’ is the only way to get a pint as restrictions ease.
We might have little enough for giving out about though if we have to go back to the way it was since March if numbers start to climb.
Our group had a couple of pints with our food and went home. Just being able to meet up and have a couple of pints of Guinness – its draught is never matched by cans or bottles and pity the fool who tries it – was a release after lockdown.
It was a novelty and while being away from the pub setting for months might have in the past triggered a late night and a pub crawl, this is a different world we live in. Fellas were going home when it was still bright. That only tends to happen when it’s the next morning.
But plenty found workarounds. One group had a light meal in one pub, waited there for two hours to have four or five pints and then went to another pub for mains and another handful of pints.
In our experience of the last couple of weeks in Westport, Castlebar and Achill, most people were behaving responsibly.
The set-up is strange. Book your table in advance, stay there save for a trip to the toilet and have the drinks brought to you.
I have the admit the last part you could get used to. Queueing at the bar and trying to get the eye of the bartender whilst not being walked all over by other thirsty patrons is something you won’t miss.
Having someone take your order looking like they’re just on a break from a welding course with their face visors is absolutely surreal.
It’s a different world we’re in now and there are pros and cons.
It won’t be a late night – which need not be a bad thing. You don’t get to mingle near as much, which is a huge part of the charm of Irish pubs.
Strolling into town on your own for a few pints is not simple. You have to be organised.
How profitable is it for the pubs and restaurants is hard to say but you have to think breaking even will be as much as many will aim for.
One only hopes with everyone acting responsibly, it will only be a temporary measure but if we know one thing for certain from recent months it is that we can take nothing for granted.