There’s a potential new regular in this evening, second visit to the pub. Nice chap, moved back into the area recently, big on his beer, friendly and chatty with the other customers the one time he’d been in previously. I direct him to a free seat, then pop over with a beer menu and take his contact details. I’ve already written his name by the time I get to the table, and he looks at me, smiling yet taken aback: “That’s my name! How did you remember that?!”
I tell him it’s because of the lovely tweet he posted about the pub and thank him for doing so, but really I want to tell him that it’s because I’m allowed so few customers now, remembering names isn’t exactly hard.
It’s 9.40pm, and I’m in the middle of closing down, having already been around to every table with the card machine, settling tabs. The door opens and an unmasked man walks in, begins to approach the bar.
“We’re closed mate, sorry!”
He stares for a moment then sighs, smiles, and tells me: “I hate you with the fire of a thousand suns.”
I nod sympathetically. “I know. I know.”
There’s a regular who’s been particularly resistant to booking, and he’s just walked through the door. We’re full, all tables occupied, apart from a couple of stools which are reserved for ten minutes time. As my colleague is politely apologising, the guy is looking around at the tables where there are plenty of seats free, but are already occupied by our other regulars. One household per table here generally means one person per table. The majority live alone and pop in here to see their mates.
He makes a gesture of frustration and walks out to try his luck down the road. My colleague shrugs at me. Should have booked, we agree.
We both know that you shouldn’t have to book to come to the pub.
(The person who reserved the stools doesn’t even show up, and after 15 minutes we open the space to walk ins.)
Someone stands up to nip to the loo, and the folk around him pipe up with variations on: “Oi, mask up! Get with the programme!”
The new rules have become part of the fabric of general pub banter.
Updating and printing beer menus is now part of my daily routine. Despite the beer list being separated into cask and keg, some of our clientele who only ever look at the cask pumps and don’t bother with the keg fonts have started ordering a few different halves from the keg selection towards the end of the night. Was it really just habit driving their choices?
A bloke who only ever drinks 3.9% trad cask pales orders a pint of 5% rhubarb and hibiscus keg sour, and I smile under my mask.
One of our Saturday lot is just finishing his pint as I appear and place another by his elbow. He cheerily remarks: “You’re on fire today, girl!”
I look around at the pub, full up to capacity with its eight customers on a Saturday afternoon, then back at him. “Well, I haven’t exactly got much else to do.”