Monday, 12 April 2021

Don’t you know there’s a pandemic on?

Today at last sees the reopening of pubs in England for outdoor drinking, although the weather isn’t ideally suited to it. Obviously, this is a sign of hope, but unfortunately it seems that jobsworths in several local authorities seem to be getting in first and doing their best to put a spanner in the works. First out of the blocks was one of my local councils, Cheshire East, who decided that the “Rule of 6” and the two-household rule would not apply, and that social distancing would need to be enforced within groups, not just between them.

Fortunately government minister Paul Scully stepped in and told them that this interpretation is incorrect. However, he is yet to do the same with several authorities, including Rochdale and Ribble Valley, who have decided all customers in pub outdoor areas will have to wear masks except when seated, something that most definitely is not required by law.

It has been reported that some local authorities have set up enforcement teams to patrol pub gardens to ensure that the regulations are being adhered to. It is hard to believe that, given the squeeze on council spending, this is a good use of scarce resources.

There have also been a number of cases across the country of local authorities deciding that outdoor areas that they have been happy to accept as smoking areas for years do not qualify as “Covid-safe”, even though the rules applying to both are exactly the same. Here is an example from Brighton:

I can think of several outside smoking areas that effectively are surrounded by walls on all sides – the key determinant is whether they have a roof. Maybe on a very strict interpretation of the law some of these areas don’t qualify, but surely councils should be doing their best to encourage local businesses to reopen rather than putting obstacles in their way.

Then there have been a number of headlines that all customers in pub gardens would need to check in using the NHS track and trace app. This is absolutely not the case, and indeed the legislation specifically states that venues must offer an alternative means of providing details. Sometimes, this was corrected in the body of the article, but even so fit is putting across misleading information and spreading a climate of fear and doubt.

I wish every success to pubs who are able to open up outdoor drinking areas, but it seems that some in local government and the media do not share that feeling.

Edit 13/04/21: I have added the Telegraph cartoon at the head of the post, published in today's paper.

26 comments:

  1. I think the mask outside thing applies as the Govt guidelines require this if the 2 m rule cannot be followed, i.e. it becomes 1 m with 'mitigation'. So, if pub tables are 2 m apart you would be 1 m from seated people when walking between them. All cobblers I know, but that is my reading of the rules.

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    1. No, it definitely doesn't apply outdoors. The local authorities in question are guilty of misinterpretation, to be charitable.

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  2. For once I entirely agree with you 'mudge. Where are you drinking today.

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  3. I do hope this leads to a recovery in publicans and brewers fortunes and, perhaps an afterthought, the resumption of production of marmite, which hasn't been available in my local shops for some months! It's not just drinkers who are affected!

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    Replies
    1. I've had no problems obtaining Marmite, although they do seem to have suspended production of the smaller jars. I did try the Tesco own brand version, but it isn't as good and is noticeably more runny.

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    2. Professor Pie-Tin12 April 2021 at 16:40

      Marmite and peanut butter in a jar.
      A game-changer.
      But truth be told I prefer Vegemite.It's far less salty than Marmite.

      Delete
    3. I've never been sure about peanut butter -e.g. is smooth better than crunchy? and at my age, am a bit set im my ways (old dogs etc...), but thanks for the tip!

      Delete
  4. Professor Pie-Tin12 April 2021 at 15:50

    My two kids over in Blighty have been teasing me since lunchtime with pictures of them hoisting pints in 'Spoons beer gardens.
    The little fuckers ...

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  5. Early signs in a Derbyshire pub today were promising as common sense ruled and everything was good with the world...this is day 1 of course!

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  6. I know it's not the councillors who enforce the petty regulations but there are local elections in a month's time. Make your views known!

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    1. I've heard some people who wouldn't normally consider voting for them are toying with lending their support to the LibDems because of their anti-lockdown stance.

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    2. Professor Pie-Tin12 April 2021 at 21:03

      And you can always rely on the LibDems to go back on their word if you voted them in ...

      Delete
    3. You could say the same of virtually all political parties, Prof.

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    4. Johnson has kept every promise he has made during the Covid crisis, of course ;-)

      Delete
    5. Professor Pie-Tin15 April 2021 at 09:56

      Well he did make good on his promise to deliver Brexit.
      If you recall.
      Mwahaha.

      Delete
    6. But that's not Covid-related. Many people lent him their vote to achieve Brexit, with "lent" being the operative word.

      Delete
    7. Professor Pie-Tin15 April 2021 at 15:15

      Vaccinations are Covid-related.
      I hope you all remembered to say thank you Boris when you got yours.
      Credit where credit is due and all that ...

      Delete
  7. I pitched up at Newcastle’s Tyne Bar at half 2 yesterday and it looked just like a bank holiday with all the outside tables and seating occupied. The manager invoked the friends and family rules and got me a small table and a chair from inside. None of that ordering and paying by app either. Very relaxed and a bit surreal to be surrounded by so many people having a good time after so long.

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  8. Air cannot flow? Rally? So drinkers will asphyxiate outside will they? What utter morons there are on Brighton city Council. I went to my local last night with a good friend plus my brother showed up too. Bloody cold outside but worth it for a couple of pints. Pretty busy too. Has a big garden and an open ended marquee. I know the couple who run it. No-one signed in, no scanning required and no prodnoses as it's a village pub. Orders via text. Prompt service. If the weather warms up I can live with being outside for a few weeks.

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    Replies
    1. It's been reported today that Brighton Council have relented and allowed the bar to open the outside area provided that they limit capacity to 30 and make some changes to the layout.

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  9. Judging by the reaction from some Local Authorities enforcement seems to a jobsworth's wet dream,these people should be reminded of who funds their wages and pensions.

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  10. I alluded to councils and their overarching pernickety ways in my piece which preceded opening. This is the relevant extract.

    " I note too on Twitter that some local authorities are making up the rules of this new game as they go along, which most certainly isn't helpful. Light touch on rule interpretation seems to be beyond most Local Authorities' understanding of their role in life. "

    Sadly you mention Rochdale, and they have been poking their noses in over plastic glasses and more as you mention. It isn't that straightforward to stand up to the buggers, even if they are wrong in law, as they can make life even more miserable.

    Life is hard enough for us all, but while I very much encourage safety, I don't condone nit-picking.

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  11. It's all well and good but what is the point if there is no mild? no stickers? no t-shirts?
    Mild Magic should be on april/may but lazy CAMRA have not pulled their thumb out so we can save mild.
    What have they all been doing during lockdown? Sat on their ample behinds drinking obscure craft cans and liking each others pictures of it on twitter?
    It's a disgrace.

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  12. I thought the rules were the same as for smoking shelters (i.e. no more than 50% enclosed) which are really very simple and should be known by all publicans by now.

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    Replies
    1. The point is that councils are judging facilities not to be Covid-compliant even though they have been happy to accept them as smoking shelters for years. In the case of the Brighton beer garden there was no roof whatsoever!

      Delete

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