The independent London newspaper

Will the pubs be half full or half empty?

Police to treat first day back like New Year's Eve

03 July, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby Helen Chapman Dan Carrier and Tom Foot

Ben Caudell at the Rose and Crown in Torriano Avenue

PUBLICANS are ready to take a step into unknown after being given the green light to re-open from Saturday.

A New Journal ring-a-round of venues across the borough found some are preparing to serve pints in visors, others will have concierges for the first time and several will try and track who is coming in for a drink.

The karaoke machines are being switched off and some pubs will not show sports in the way they did before. All will be working with a reduced capacity with tables and chairs rearranged to keep people apart.

Will it work? Will it be a fun experience?

Landlords say they have no choice but to try to find out after three months of lockdown during which they have survived on savings, limited takeaway orders and Pay it Forward vouchers.

The big build-up to Saturday’s change in the rules, however, has led to some landlords delaying the restart.

Several we spoke to said that they would rather wait until a quieter day of the week to try queuing systems and table service.

Inspector Richard Berns said police would be monitoring how the first day goes.

“It’s impossible to predict what will happen,” he said. “People have not been able to get to pubs in months so there might be a high turnout which can bring with it drunk and disorderly behaviour and maybe even crime.”

He added: “We’ve prepared for it as if it was New Year’s Eve but I don’t think it will be anything near that number of people due to the restrictions limiting the number of tables and people allowed in.”

He said police would be able to use licensing and anti-social behaviour laws to shut a venue down if it gets out of hand but only as a last resort.

“The pubs are policing themselves to a large degree and it’s down to them to follow the guidelines,” he said.

Reuben Scott at The Gipsy Queen

Publicans have been asked to follow government guidelines but their plans do not need sign off approval at the Town Hall.

Instead, Camden said it would have a “Frontline Presence Team” providing advice. “Businesses have the responsibility to develop plans to ensure they can comply with the government regulations. These plans do not need to be submitted to the council,” a Town Hall spokesperson said yesterday (Wednesday).

Michael Holden, who runs The Dolphin in King’s Cross, said: “We have really missed the customers. We have spent three months killing time, waiting, but it is going to be far from easy to get things running. We will only let so many people in and also make sure people don’t drink too much and get to close to each other. We know we have to be really, really careful.”

Reuben Scott, at The Gipsy Queen in Gospel Oak, said: “Not everyone will feel comfortable immediately coming back, so we will continue with takeaways. We assume though it will be pretty busy – and that’s why we will have someone on the door.”

He added: “After each group has left, we will thoroughly sanitise tables and menus.” Pubs with music and comedy rooms, however, are worried that simply serving pints to a limited capacity will not be enough.

Ben Caudell, one of three owners at the Rose & Crown in Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town, said being unable to use the cellar bars would be a blow.

“We are profitable because of the events downstairs,” he said. “Comedy, live gigs, acoustic stuff, life drawing classes private hire, but we just do not know when it will be able to reopen.”

Mr Caudell thanked customers who had raised £10,000 by buying beer vouchers. Henry Conlon, who owns the Dublin Castle music pub, said he could not open with a capacity of just 30.

“I’d have to control the numbers,” he said. “I’d have to control people going to washrooms and I’m worried about data protection. We are supposed to take names and numbers of people coming in. Well my punk rockers ain’t going to like that.”

The Red Lion and Sun on the Haringey side of the border in Highgate said it would stay closed too, amid its concerns the virus could spread.

Owner Heath Ball said: “The last thing I would want is to open then see an outbreak at the premises and have to shut down. There’s a lot of money that goes into opening the premises up then having to close down again. I don’t want to be first to the party.”

What some of your favourite pubs are doing:


Staff at the Gipsy Queen in Malden Road will wear visors while they work. Manager Reuben Scott said: “We will have a concierge type member of staff at the door to greet people. There’s a clear layout and each person will have a table allocated. Not everyone may feel comfortable coming back to pubs immediately, so we’ll still have takeaways.”

THE GRAFTON, Kentish Town

The Grafton in Prince of Wales Road is delaying its re-opening until next Thursday. “We are getting to grips and finalising our plans,” said manager Tanya Tozer. “It will be table service to start with and we will be using a QR code. There will still be humans with smiles on faces available. We are a community pub and we still like to speak to people.”


The bar will be open again at the Duke of Hamilton from noon on Saturday. Assistant manager Harry Anton said: “We have had to take a lot of tables out in the main restaurant but we have a big space in the garden where we will be keeping a two metre distance. We are seeing it like a lot of European places – you sit down and order a beer. It will be that kind of vibe.”

THE RAILWAY, West Hampstead

Customers wanting a pint in The Railway pub in Broadhurst Gardens will book tables online for slots lasting one hour and 45 minutes, or join a queue outside. Staff said the pub would re-open on Monday to introduce the new measures on a quieter day of the week. Toilets will be one-in, one-out only and food can be ordered through an app.


The bar near Kentish Town West train station, run by the popular Camden Town Brewery, will re-open with a “pop-up beer garden”. There will be a one way system into the mews leading to the bar. For £20, customers get entry, a £10 food voucher and £10 off the drinks bill. If it rains, payments are refunded. There are two-hour table slots to book.

THE NORTH STAR, Swiss Cottage

“We will have a zero tolerance on drunkeness,” said Natasha Purdom, landlord at the family-run North Star in Finchley Road. “Customers will also have to sign into a website called Guest Register – you can do it on the phone. Once hand-sanitised and you’ve left contact details, we will seat them. We’ve got an outdoor bar in large area with heated tables.”


The “King Willie” re-opens on Saturday with all customers asked to stay seated at the pub in Hampstead High Street. Landlord Jimmy McGrath said: “It’s going to be a learning curve but we’re just following the regulations. We’ve made a big space.” The same policy applies to the Old Eagle in Camden Town, also owned by Mr McGrath’s family.


Fans of popular back street pub The Sheephaven Bay will have to wait until Monday to get back inside. “Saturday would have been mayhem,” said landlord Pat Logue. “Like everybody else, we’ve lost a lot of furniture, but it’s like the first day opening up my pub 26 years ago in Camden. For us it’s survival for the next six months.”


“It’s pretty spacious and has good capacity for us to do decent numbers of people without crushing everyone in,” said Stuart Langley, the landlord at the Dartmouth Arms in York Rise. “The big question is if, after the fuss of reopening, people are going to be out spending money, so we’re keen to keep offering the take away offers that have done well.”

THE COCK, Somers Town

The Cock in Phoenix Road, made an Asset of Community Value two years ago, will close earlier on the restart. Landlady Sheila Gavigan said: “Just to be on the safe side we will close at 7pm. A lot of elderly people come to the pub and if no one has been out for a few months, things are going to be a bit strange.” New signs are up in the bar and tables have been moved.

LOCKSIDE, Camden Town

The music will be turned down at the Lockside Camden bar by the canal, so people do not have to raise their voices or shout. Tables have also been moved to allow for social distancing. Events manager Nichola Petrou, said: “It’s a bit disappointing about the music but we’re going to try and make it as fun as possible for people. We’ve got to give it a go.”

THE DOLPHIN, King’s Cross

Drinks will be served from a hatch at The Dolphin in Tonbridge Street, with the numbers of customers limited. Michael Holden, whose family have run the pub since 1983, said: The government could have kept lockdown going for 12 months – but it would cost everyone an absolute fortune. It has been tough enough for three months.”


The famous Dublin Castle music pub fear the new restrictions will mean the operation isn’t “economically viable”. Landlord Henry Conlon said: “We can’t have bands, we can’t have the jukebox, you’re not allowed to sing along. We’ve had no help and now we’re going to need some. Dry January and flipping Stay Sober October? Don’t you dare this year!”

THE GALLERY, West Hampstead

The Gallery in Broadhurst Gardens will be re-opening, but a weekend later. Renovations had begun yesterday (Wednesday) at the popular bar with a new layout to help with social distancing. There will be no sport shown and music will be kept low. The bar will open later – from 4pm in the afternoon – but shut at its normal closing time around midnight.


The Pineapple in Leverton Street will save its re-opening until Sunday, and its sister pub Tapping The Admiral in Castle Road will also wait a day extra to get the doors open again. The third pub in the group, however, the Lady Hamilton will be open on Saturday with a queuing system in Holmes Road to gain entry. Manager Poppy Stewart said: “It is a case of seeing how things work out.


Landlady Susan Bowler at the Queen’s Larder said she had heard from staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital that they are looking forward to having somewhere to go after shifts. “I can see on my CCTV some people have been sitting outside with their own cans trying to recreate that feeling of the pub,” she said. “Only problem is there were no toilets.”


THE Golden Lion, a popular watering hole off the main strip in Camden Town, is limiting customer numbers to 30. There will be a one-way ordering system. “It’ll either be really busy or really quiet. It’s a little bit trial by fire but we’re prepared for both and we’ll learn from it,” said general manager Daniel Sharkey. “It’s down to the customers and what works for them.”


Phil Daley, the general manager at the Lion and Unicorn in Gaisford Street, told the New Journal that the pub would wait until July 20 to re-open. “We feel we will learn a lot from other pubs’ experiences,” he said. When the bar does start inviting customers back in, hand sanitiser stations will be all around and a one-way queuing system at the bar will be in place.


The Highgate Inn close to Highgate tube station will ask customers to sign in to help with tracking and tracing. “We will have to have the jukebox on low volume,” said manager Dennis O’Neill. “Because we don’t want people singing, shouting or laughing because that increases the risk of the virus spreading in saliva. Football is another issue. We don’t want people cheering.”


IT’S new PPE, visors and table service for staff at the long-standing Cobden in Camden High Street. The pub is looking to re-open after lockdown at around midday on Saturday. “We’re hoping everyone will be happy to be back and pleased,” said Mary McMahon who runs the pub with husband Gerry. “We’re doing our best to put things in order to make sure everyone stays safe.”


THE historic Fitzroy Tavern in Charlotte Street will not be opening on Saturday. Owners, the brewers Samuel Smith, told the New Journal they were working carefully to meet government guidelines and would be making a decision on a “pub by pub” basis. The brewery said of The Fitzroy, once George Orwell’s local: “It will re-open – we just have not yet decided when.”

BREWDOG, Camden Town

Staff will be wearing PPE at Brewdog bar in Camden Town, part of the national brewery chain. Surfaces will be cleaned every 15 minutes and there will be hand sanitiser stations around the bar. “Everything has been put in place for welcoming customers back on Saturday,” said duty manager Marcello Golfieri. It will be operating half its previous capacity with no standing in groups.

THE FLASK, Highgate Village

The Flask at the centre of Highgate village is delaying its restart as the Fullers brewery re-open its portfolio of pubs gradually. The first pint back will be served on July 15 although customers will be asked to book a table online. “Our rigorous cleaning regimes will be taken to another level, with all hard surface sanitised between sitting,” said Fullers’ Simon Emeny.






Share this story

Post a comment