That’s all gone out the window now, but at least the decision whether to stay open or not has now been taken out of pub owners and licensee’s hand, because from last night, pubs, bar, restaurants and other places where people gather to socialise, will be obliged to shut their doors for a period that is yet to be determined.
It is just over a fortnight since I last set foot in a public house; that honour falling to the Roebuck Inn at Burton-on-Trent, but little did I think that evening, when I bid farewell to members of the Beer & Pubs Forum and set off on my journey home, that it would be my last drink in a pub for quite some time.
Today we are fighting a completely different war against a silent and unseen enemy, so the decision taken by HM Government, brings us into line with most other countries around the world. Needs must, and given the scientific evidence, it is obviously the right and sensible thing to do in order to stop the spread of this insidious virus, despite what JDW boss, Tim Martin might say.
The man has gone from being a self-proclaimed expert on international trade, to being one on pandemics and virology, and whilst I appreciate his obvious concerns about the fate of the hugely successful business he has built up over the years, Wetherspoon's are probably in a better position than most to weather the storm; certainly better than many small, independent operators.
In many ways today’s situation is history repeating itself, as it is just over 100 years since the so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-20, which killed an estimated 50 million people world-wide. Towards the end of the Great War, this particularly virulent strain of flu spread like wildfire through the overcrowded army camps and hospitals of the Western Front, ravaging much of Europe, before spreading to the rest of the world.
With no modern resuscitation techniques to assist sufferers ,and no antibiotics to treat complications caused by the disease, it is little wonder the death toll from this pandemic was so high. On the other hand, with air travel still in its infancy, and global travel extremely rare, the spread of Spanish flu around the world was much slower, compared to Covid-19, which has taken just 3 months from first surfacing in central China, to infect every continent except Antarctica, and virtually every country.
So yes, governments and health agencies around the world are doing the right thing by attempting to slow down the spread of Covid-19; in effect buying time until an effective vaccine can be developed, as well as easing the burden on over-stretched health resources and hospital beds.
By doing so, we will be working together and helping much cherished local businesses and institutions to survive, so that eventually we can slowly resume normal daily activities, and ultimately really appreciate what we have got when we get to enjoy that well-earned, and richly deserved, first pint of the day.