Slowly does it – Chiswick reopens its pubs

By Pam O’Toole and Matt Smith

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t fail to have noticed that this weekend marked so- called “Super Saturday” – the day pubs and restaurants reopened after months of lockdown.

Some of Chiswick’s finest dusted off their bar stools and reopened their doors on Saturday itself. More reopened on Monday. But others have decided to emerge more cautiously.

It was clear from the outset that the pub experience was going to be changed beyond all recognition. Major modifications were needed to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pre-bookings, table service, one-way systems, ordering via apps, no standing at the bar, no groups of more than six people and frequent references to the Government’s test and trace policy.

Nevertheless, the media carried alarming pictures of packed crowds of drinkers in central London on Saturday night. And screaming headlines quoted a police chief as saying it was “crystal clear” that drunk people cannot socially distance.

So how did local pubs fare? Well, not too badly, it seems. So far, there have been no reports of major incidents, either from the police, or from local residents. The Chiswick Calendar has rung around a series of local pubs to see how the reopening went.

We’ll start with Fuller’s, our local brewery.

Image above: Rishi Sunak helps to reopen The Bell & Crown

Images above: Rishi Sunak speaks with staff, The Bell & Crown pub

Riverside pubs

The Bell & Crown – poster pub for ‘Super Saturday’

The Bell and Crown at Strand on the Green was the only Fuller’s pub to reopen in Chiswick at the weekend. In fact, it was the “poster pub” for Super Saturday, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, dropping in before the grand re-opening to check out its preparations. The Chancellor was photographed moving barrels and polishing the cutlery.

The Bell and Crown is one of a number of riverside pubs on Strand on the Green with their own specific issues surrounding social distancing. They back onto a long, narrow towpath often used by crowds of drinkers in more normal times.

A Fuller’s spokesperson said the pub was actively taking measures to prevent drinkers from congregating on the towpath outside, with the manager and team frequently checking the area and dispersing any groups of pub customers who might be gathering. Also, the seated terrace area facing the river was closed after 9pm.

“Overall, we had a good weekend” said the spokesperson. “Council and licensing officials popped in to see how things were going and were very comfortable with what they saw.”

“It’s a fluid situation. We’re learning, our customers are learning, and we’ll adapt as we need to. In Chiswick, the George IV will open on July 15th and our other pubs a bit after that. The reason for that is that we’re learning lessons as we go along. We want to open as safely as possible.”

Two other Fuller’s pubs in the surrounding area have reopened, The Queen’s Head at Brook Green and the Blue Boat at Hammersmith. The opening of the George IV on the High Road on July 15 will be followed by other Fuller’s pubs – The Pilot and The Old Pack Horse in Chiswick, One Over the Ait in Brentford and The Dove in Hammersmith.

Two more river pubs – Chef and Brewer’s Bull’s Head and The City Barge – have now also reopened, with equally stringent safety measures in place.  Bull’s Head manager Barbara Smith told The Chiswick Calendar that the pub’s sticking with two metre social distancing for now, to be doubly safe. It also has an ordering app, sanitising stations, throwaway menus and a “pub safe” monitor to ensure everything is cleaned frequently and thoroughly.

“We’re really lucky where we are,“ says Barbara. “Our customers are lovely. We’re more family food orientated. The other thing, though, is that customers are used to it now [social distancing], they know the routine and I think they’re just happy to be able to come back in and enjoy a nice meal in their local pub and know that the toilets are open as well!”

The High Road pubs

The Lamb was doing a brisk trade on Saturday, with people queuing to get in. When The Chiswick Calendar called the pub on Monday for an update, staff were too busy with customers to stop and talk.

Greene King’s The Packhorse and Talbot on the High Road also reopened on Monday with new safety measures in place.

But most of the High Road pubs remained firmly closed at the weekend, including the Roebuck. Its future remains uncertain after the group that owns it, Food & Fuel, went into administration in March. Its lovely garden will be sadly missed this summer by locals seeking alfresco drinking.

The Crown also remained closed, with a message on its website saying it has decided to delay its reopening to protect the wellbeing of its staff and guests. It says it looks forward to welcoming people back “later this summer when we are confident that it’s safe to do so”.  And The Crown and Anchor’s website says it is “working really hard” towards reopening.

Other areas of Chiswick

The Copper Cow on Fauconberg Road seemed very busy on Saturday night, with drinkers congregating on the pavement outside.  

The Duke of Sussex on the corner of Acton Lane and The Old Station House on Grove Park Road also opened on Saturday, as did The Swan on Evershed Walk off Acton Lane.

And at least one independent pub, The Queen’s Head on Sutton Lane North, found itself turning customers away on the first day of opening. Its manager, Aneta Barratt, said Saturday was very busy from midday onwards.  “We had no problems at all”, she says. “Customers follow the one way system – people are very patient with all the changes”

Other pubs relaunching on Monday included the Tabard on Bath Road, popular with ArtsEd students (although its student-friendly Happy Hour has been discontinued).

Chiswickians are obviously a very thirsty lot. A number of pubs were “too busy” to talk to The Chiswick Calendar when we called. The reopened pubs, it seems, are booming.

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