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Ready to get back to the pubs like this


On Friday 26th June, I opened my Good Beer Guide 2020 for the first time since mid-March. It must have been a subconscious thing. I could not bear to see all those white gaps which I could do nothing about!

Needless to say, my pub tally for June matched my April and May figures, though you could argue I've actually hit 'minus' figures if you count the pubs that have confirmed they will not be reopening, ever ever ever. Unless they change their minds / get taken on by someone else.


The saddest of which for me is Brigantes, York, my closest current GBG pub. It might not be the most aesthetically pubby pub in the city, but since it opened circa 2006 up to the present day, I don't think there's been a more consistent all rounder in terms of ale quality, friendly staff and just a place where you can pop in for a drink, on your own, with friends, and feel comfortable. I'll miss you Brig!

My good marra John captures the turtley awesome joy of Brigantes (Apr 2013)

I think I was a bit naive when I heard about these 'pubs that won't re-open', thinking it'd probably not happen at all or it'd only affect rubbish ones. All the ones I'm hearing about have been good or great. Take Nottingham House in Cleethorpes, fantastic on my one and only visit. Pave in Hull, named after Princes Ave. It offered a different type of real ale experience (i.e. modern) in Hull at a time when there wasn't really much choice. Devonshire Cat in Sheffield, the first time I can remember seeing a huge range of ales all scrawled all over the giant blackboard, in 2002. Totally wowed me! Wouldn't now. And what about the Running Pump in Catforth? Lovely pub, and what an eclectic mix of BRAPEES were with me that day. Sad times!

Nottingham House, feel the quality

Locating the Running Pump. Note background cameo from Lawrenson and Britain.


"So readers you gotta let me know
Should I stay in or should I go?
I could stay inside my bubble
Cos if I 'pub' there might be trouble"

I promise I'm being honest with you when I say that throughout much of early-mid lockdown, I'd been pretty chill when it came to the reopening of pubs. "What will be will be", "it is what it is", are the kind of things you'd hear me saying.

But since I've had that 4th July date etched into every pore and sinew, the voice in my head previously saying "Perhaps let things bed in first, give it a week or two, see what happens" (voiced strangely enough, by Dame Judi Dench) has been countered by another, more urgent voice (Willie Thorne this time) chanting in a low whisper "You love pubs don't you? Pubs are what you do. It might be carnage. Imagine the blog potential. You owe it to yourself AND the challenge! BRAPA BRAPA BRAPA. Go go go!" Yeah, alright Willie, settle down pal....... thought you were dead.

'Torn' I feel, like Natalie Imbruglia after an unfortunate incident with a bicycle seat. That's the only way I can possibly describe it.

There's been so much chatter on what this peculiar reboot of the pub will look like (apart from a general consensus it won't be in the spirit of 'what makes pubs great'), it has piqued my interest to such levels that I'm buzzing with intrigue about the prospect of walking through those doors again. Whichever doors they might be. IF I can get in. Some people think Saturday will be 'Mad / Black Eye Friday before Christmas combined with England winning a World Cup' levels of pub mayhem. I wonder. So much speculation. No doubt the media will find the busiest city centre pub in the whole UK with the rowdiest scum to report from.

The problem, BRAPA-wise is, that whilst the leisure industry or whatever they call might be opening up, the train advice is still one of "essential journeys" only. Is BRAPA essential? I think so. But who would agree? Is jumping on a train to London just to tick pubs reckless at this point? Probably. I might get turned around at the Donny or Leicester turnpike anyway.

So for now, I will simply toddle down to somewhere unfashionable in York though, just to see how the land lies and give it the blog the day deserves. Never has visiting average own pubs in my own city been such an exciting prospect ......

Will I have to sign a book, give my details? Is there communal hand sanitiser? Will the staff be organised? Can you make cheery conversation with someone behind a huge perspex mask? Is social distancing working? Does the online / table ordering work? Are people following the arrows properly? Is going to the bogs a three act tragedy? Will different pubs do things differently or will there be a feeling of uniformity across the board? Will some just say 'as you were, you're all adults'? Such unknowns. You know I love a good pub observation session. Saturday could be highly entertaining. Or just plain terrible. And I love the fact that I have absolutely no idea how it is going to play out. All these years spent building up a strong pub etiquette knowledge base. And suddenly, it counts for absolutely nothing! Isn't life superb like that?

BRAPA Strategy (11th Jul - late Oct)

My biggest problem over the coming weeks and months is the matter of how many pubs will reopen, and when. 'Shut pub alerts' have always stymied me, and that was long before a global pandemic.

I see some are staggering their reopening. Antic for example, those jolly youthful quirksters of South London fame, are opening just the nine of their chain on 4th, so you can't assume that just because you can get in your Pratts & Payne, you can also get in your Shelverdine Goathouse (I'm not making these names up by the way). There's nothing sadder than a shut pub, but a pub you've specifically travelled to only to find it shut, adds an extra layer of sadness onto pre-existing sadness, not to mention the latent sadness which will hit you next time you walk this same way. Philosophical, or lockdown insanity?

I'm going to approach pub ticking between now and the arrival of the 2021 GBG (late October 2020) with a sort of 'any tick is a bonus' attitude. The year is a write-off but we can salvage something from the wreck. Two weeks off end Jul/early Aug, could've timed it just right (unless a second wave as hit by then!) I'm going to do away with the 'trying to complete set counties' approach, and focus on areas where you have a good selection to go at. And then, if you do encounter a closure, you can bounce off it, straight into the next, rather than say, be stuck on a hill six miles from Carlisle. And at only 38.93% GBG completion, there are enough gaps to allow me to do this.

It's up for grabs now!


"The New Normal" .... 'Bringing a DJ? to watch me drink a pint of bitter and sneer at some twild?