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‘Without this place, they’ve got nowhere’: Drinkers return to only pub in village as lockdown eases

·4-min read
<p>Phil Wild from the Harewood Arms says it is a ‘relief’ to be back</p> (Zoe Tidman/The Independent)

Phil Wild from the Harewood Arms says it is a ‘relief’ to be back

(Zoe Tidman/The Independent)

On the outskirts of Greater Manchester, the village of Broadbottom spent more than half a year without its local pub.

It comes as no surprise that, within minutes of the Harewood Arms reopening as lockdown eased, regulars start flocking back to their usual spot.

The first customer to arrive, 68-year-old Eddie Burney, tells The Independent his pint was like “nectar”.

He sits chatting to the owner as customers slowly start trickling into the pub on the edge of the Peak District, after it opened its doors at 3pm on Monday.

On 17 May, pubs were allowed to reopen indoors in England and Wales, while Scottish pubs could start selling alcohol inside again, after facing restrictions due to the Covid pandemic.

Zoe Tidman / The Independent
Zoe Tidman / The Independent

Phil Wild, who owns the Harewood Arms in Tameside, tells The Independent it is a “relief” to be back “because we have been shut for so long”.

“I’m just glad to be getting open and getting back on with it. Bit of money going in the bank because – well, apart from the grants – it has just been going out all the time,” he said.

The pub stayed shut when pub gardens were allowed to reopen in mid-April, with the owner saying they decided to hold off due to the difficulty of serving in its outside area.

On the first day back, it was clear customers had missed having the space to socialise with others in the village.

“A pub is part of a community,” 70-year-old Dennis Tobin tells The Independent as he enjoys his first pint inside a pub in months.

The retired engineer says he has ended up good friends with the people working at the pub.

"When lockdown was on, because I live by myself, they were the people who used to come down, knock on my door and just stand the distance and talk,” he tells The Independent.

“That is only because I met them in here.”

Zoe Tidman / The Independent
Zoe Tidman / The Independent

From the other side of the pub, Alan Cookson, a 79-year-old retired accountant, tells The Independent it is “fantastic” to have his first beer since July.

"You don’t just go there [the pub] to get drunk. You go there and it’s social," Mr Cookson says. "You learn what’s going on in the news.”

“My cottage up here – I need a tree surgeon,” he tells The Independent. “You come here and somebody will know who the local tree surgeon is.”

While he had not been able to see other regulars at his local pub, which is in Liverpool, during lockdown, he says that did not stop them from catching up with one another.

"We kept in touch with one another by phone," he tells The Independent. "We kept a circle, so all the news went round."

While pubs reopened indoors on Monday, restaurants and cinemas could also take customers back for the first time in months.

Changes under England’s roadmap out of lockdown mean people can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30, and indoors in groups of six, or two households.

As restrictions eased, the prime minister Boris Johnson urged people to treat the latest easing of restrictions with a "heavy dose of caution" while the UK’s business secretary warned against excessive drinking for those returning to bars.

It is clear from what himself and customers say that the village’s only pub is, for some, the beating heart of the community

Mr Wild from the Harewood Arms in Tameside tells The Independent he has “no clue” how many customers to expect on the first day back, which saw several come through the door shortly after opening.

“I’ve just been listening to the news and some people say they are not going out because they still not certain, [and] other people saying they are desperate to go for a pint,” he tells The Independent.

But it is clear from what himself and customers say that the village’s only pub is, for some, the beating heart of the community.

“There are quite a few groups of people that sit together that are all single and on their own,” Mr Wild tells The Independent.

“Without this place, they’ve got nowhere.”

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