What are pubs like since lockdown?

Below are our experiences of visiting our favourite haunts in our local town of Settle in the first week since pubs re-opened. Other towns may be different, and I hope some other branch members, or even non-branch members, might be willing to contribute their own experiences from different places. We really missed our pubs, especially because in Settle, unlike in larger towns, there were no outlets offering take-away cask beer. All we had available were bottles from Booths, the Co-op or Katy from Boxer and Hound (the small café and bottle shop opposite the Talbot) with her weekly “red-cross parcel” run. It has been great to get back out, and support some great well-run local pubs, run by caring and professional people, many of whom are our friends. If you haven‘t dared go out yet, read on. I hope I can allay some of your fears. (The graphics were produced by CAMRA in the run up to re-opening day.) For a full list of all pubs we know to have re-opened in Keighley and Craven, click this sentence.

Pulling TogetherHart‘s Head, Giggleswick.

In advance of pubs re-opening on Saturday the 4th July, we had been keeping an eye on social media to try and find out what all our favourite local haunts were intending to do. One that had been silent was the Hart‘s Head. Back in what seems like a different age, on 4th March 2020, John and Aaron from the Craven Heifer in Stainforth took on the Hart‘s Head to run it for Thwaites brewery, who had just bought it and re-opened it after a short closure. They were just begining to find their feet and draw people back in, when they were told they must close. We hoped they were still there - they had been doing a good job - so late afternoon on re-opening day, we went for a short walk to find out.

We were very excited to find the door open, along with some slightly confusing signs placed outside in case a queue formed. One directed people with bookings to wait on the left, the other directed people without bookings to wait on the right. As no-one was waiting in either queue, we tentatively entered. We were greeted by a beaming Aaron, who took a name and phone number for Test and Trace purposes, asked us whether we were dining or just drinking, and offered us a choice of tables in the bar or in the dining area, saying someone would come and take our order striaght way. We chose a table in the corner of the main bar, separated from the next nearest table by well over two metres, and were immediately approached by a pleasant young lady. Three cask beers were on offer: Thwaites Original, Thwaites Gold and Thwaites IPA. One member of staff was dedicated to running the bar, and remained behind it for most of our stay. Aaron and the young lady waited at table, serving drinks, food and taking repeat orders. When we arrived, about two thirds of the tables in the bar were taken, but the dining room was empty. When we left, after a second round, all but one of the tables in both rooms were occupied. There was pleasant hubbub of conversation and a relaxing atmosphere. As we sat there, we saw a couple of friends pass the window, so I texted them to try and persuade them to join us. Unfortunately they didn‘t, but under government guidelines - that two households can meet inside pubs - they could have. When we left, we paid by conactless card at a specially set aside portion of the bar, with a protective perspex screen. We could have paid cash, but preferred to use card ourselves.

The Hart‘s Head is fully open and is keeping its normal hours, offering food, drink and accommodation. Please note the garden is still closed.

Pulling TogetherTalbot Arms, Settle.

The Talbot is probably the pub we visit most often, so it is not surprising we were keen to get back as soon as we could. Tony and Janette had advertised that, to restrict numbers, reservations (for 90-minute slots) must be made in advance, for both eating and just drinking, and also for indoors and outdoors. The slots can be run together, if tables are available. It is not a large pub, and in normal times is particularly popular on Friday and Saturday evenings, so we duly contacted the pub at about 8.30pm on July 4th and booked a table indoors to run up to closing time. Janette said one was available from 9, which suited us fine. On arrival we were greeted by Janette at the door, asked to use the hand-sanitiser provided and shown to our table. To maintain physical distancing, some tables and chairs have been removed and the pool table has been pushed up against the wall. Tables are spaced well apart, and where the gap between different customer groups is less than 2 metres, discreet perspex screens have been hung from the ceiling down to below table height. These are decorated with a large Talbot (dog) logo and look like they have been part of the pub decor since long before the virus appeared. During lockdown, the pub was decorated throughout, the tables were sanded down and varnished, and it now has a bright and airy feel.

Janette took our order and returned to guard duty. Three cask beers are normally available, perhaps four at weekends (rather than the usual five) and, much to my disappointment, the dark beer has been dropped for now. On offer on Saturday were Settle Blonde and Mainline, Roosters Highway 51 and Wishbone Tiller Pin. As in the Hart‘s Head, there was a pleasant relaxing atmosphere, and it was good to see many of the Saturday evening regulars, mainly the younger end, back in supporting the pub and enjoying themselves in a sensible way. In the Talbot, the staff all wear facemasks, except Janette who has a visor as otherwise, she says, her glasses steam up. This took a little getting used to, as face coverings are not the norm in Settle, unlike on some more urban locations. As in the Hart‘s Head, one member of staff was dedicated to pulling pints and pouring drinks behind the bar, while other staff (three in the Talbot on Saturday) waited at table inside and out. As the evening progressed, more customers arrived, some without reservations, and, as there was space, these were accommodated. We were surprised how many opted to sit in the garden, given it was raining, but the regulations allow a greater mix of households outdoors (up to six people from more than two households), so this probably explains it. We had a comfortable two hours enjoying our beers, chatting and people watching before heading home just before 11. Bizarrely, it was great to hear the familiar ding of the bell for last orders - a signal that a little bit of normality was returning! Payment is by card, at the end of your stay if you are inside, with each drink if you are out, so that done, we left. A (strictly enforced) one-way system is in force, in through the front door, out through the garden, so when we left we could see how many people were outside in the rain - each table has a big, sturdy umbrella, and no-one was getting wet.

The Talbot is open from 12 noon, with slightly shorter hours Sunday to Thursday when it closes at 10pm. Food is available 12 noon until 8pm, seven days a week.

Pulling TogetherCraven Arms, Giggleswick.

The Craven Arms, on Settle bypass next to Gigleswick railway station, is run by Johnothan and Lynn, who we have known for a long time, ever since they ran the Lister Arms in Malham with Johnothan's brother Andrew. It is also one of our favourite pubs to eat in, so we selected it for our first post-lockdown meal out. As it‘s a long walk, we booked a table before we left home, just to make sure. The Craven is another pub operating a one-way system: in the front door, where there is a touch-free hand-sanitiser dispenser - smart - and wait to be seated. Two staff were on duty front-of-house, one wearing a facemask from personal choice, the other not, plus Lynn and then later Johnothan. Lynn put us in the bar, as we were a couple - the dining room is set up for larger groups - and took our drinks order. At the moment, only one cask beer is available, so a pint and a half of Bowland Hen Harrier it was. A group of regulars were sat with various dogs at the other end of the bar, physically distanced over several tables, and there were several small groups in the dining room. Again the atmosphere was relaxing, comfortable and safe. Our meal duly arrived, was photographed and put on Twitter (yes, really), and consumed with relish. First chips since March! Three Hen Harriers later, we headed out the back door, through the garden and home. Despite the heavy rain on the walk back, it was well worth it.

The Craven is currently closed Monday and Tuesday, open Wednesday and Thursday 5pm to 10pm and Friday to Sunday all day from 12. Food is available most of the open hours - check WhatPub or the Craven‘s Instagram for more information.

Pulling TogetherGolden Lion and Bar 13.

Since pubs re-opened on the 4th July, we have also visited our two nearest outlets, the Golden Lion and Bar 13. Similar to the pubs above, the Golden Lion is operating a one-way system in and out of the building: in through the gates under the arch, where you are greeted and shown to a table, out via the front door or “dwarf door”. The tables are well-spaced, and drinks orders are taken at your table and brought to you. For now, only three Thwaites beers are on cask, and there is a hand-pulled fruit cider. The atmosphere is relaxed and calm. We struck up conversation with two guys at the next table, who were in Settle with work and staying in the Lion, just as we would previously have done. The restrictions have not killed the art of socialising, as many feared, but maybe you do just need to try a bit harder.... Payment is by cash or card at the end of your visit. The Golden Lion is open normal hours and has been offering food, drink and accommodation since July 4th.

Bar 13 is a small narrow pub, and is the Settle pub we were most apprehensive about visiting, which is why we went mid-week. Some tables have been removed, but distancing is more towards the one-metre plus, than two metres. On a Tuesday evening, with only 5 other customers, this was not a problem. As in everywhere else we have visited, you santise your hands on entry. You order and pay for your beer (cash or card) at the bar, one round at a time, and take it to your table. Standing or sitting at the bar, as in every other pub, is not allowed. As we know many of the regulars in 13, we enjoyed a pleasant chat across the room, while maintaining a safe distance. We didn‘t need to shout, but this would have been difficult at a busier time, such as a weekend evening. Two cask beers are availlable at the moment. Bar 13 is open from 2pm Saturday and Sunday and from 3pm the rest of the week and does not serve food.

For a full list of all pubs we know to have re-opened in Keighley and Craven, click this sentence.

Campaigning links

Campaigning home

LocAle - Promoting locally brewed beers

Promoting real ale pubs

National Beer Scoring System

Supporting community pubs

List a pub as a community asset

Beer Festivals

Cider and Perry

Promoting “endangered” traditional beer styles

Where to drink Mild and other “endangered” beer styles in Keighley and Craven

Local pub guides

Alesman

Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017

Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017


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