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Early doors: The reopening of pubs

As pubs in Sheffield start to re-open, The Rutland Arms and Early Bar share their experiences of rising to the challenge of serving customers whilst maintaining social distancing.

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Early Bar, Crookes.

The drinks industry has been hit hard by coronavirus and over 45,000 pubs have reportedly been closed since 20 March across the UK.

There’s been hard work behind the scenes to get everything set up for re-opening in order to meet social distancing and hygiene guidelines: new furniture, outdoor seating, perspex screens, contactless payments, one-way systems and apps for booking tables and placing orders.

I recently enjoyed my first pint at The Greystones beer garden, served by staff in visors. It felt surreal, but that first proper beer tasted so good.

Some pubs and bars across Sheffield are continuing to offer drinks to take out, like the Walkley Beer Co on South Road and Pour on London Road. Other establishments like Picture House Social on Abbeydale Road will be opening in August.

If you are wanting to go out for drinks you can now visit Abbeydale Brewery’s Rising Sun at Fulwood, The Dorothy Pax at Victoria Quays, The Raven Inn in Walkley, The Itchy Pig in Broomhill and Hallamshire House at Commonside. If you want beer and dumplings, The Beer Engine on Cemetery Road are now serving Dumpling City dumplings on their menu. This list is not exhaustive.

Wherever you go, please be kind to your bartender. We’re all working this out together.

Heather at The Rutland Arms in the City Centre and Joe from the Early Bar in Crookes told us more about their experiences of adapting to the ‘new normal’.

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The Rutland Arms, Brown Street.

The Rutland Arms

We closed for the entirety of lockdown which means I really missed the pub, as I’m sure customers did.

I stayed in touch with some regulars as a few of them are now proper friends, as well as with some over social media, which was nice. People were sharing positive comments and saying such nice things on our posts which made it easier. I was apprehensive to reopen as I really wanted to get back in the pub but obviously needed both staff and customers to be safe.

Getting the pub Covid-ready did make me feel more positive about it, and visiting other pubs before we opened made me feel confident!

The response since we’ve opened has been very positive. I think people recognise how difficult it all is, so they’re being really nice. We are operating fewer hours with a lower capacity at the moment whilst it quieter. We have a regular hygiene schedule and we’re cleaning toilets and surfaces and door handles really frequently. We are currently doing table service only, with QR codes at all our tables to take you to the menus. It’s harder work but it’s definitely worth it to be safe.

We will be starting food service again soon. We just wanted to ease ourselves in. We aren’t taking bookings as having both walk-in and bookings available seemed a bit too difficult.

We have some really exciting beers in the cellar. These include breweries like Omnipollo, Garage and Alesmith. I’m really looking forward to some of the fruit sours we've got for when it’s a bit sunnier again.

I really hope at some stage in the future that pubs can be more social again, as the distance has been making it more difficult to talk to customers. I hope the industry does manage to bounce back as it’s a shame we’ve already lost some amazing pubs.

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The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street, S1 2BS.

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Early Bar, Crookes.

Early Bar

​We kept quite a low profile over lockdown due to the uncertainty surrounding things with the pandemic.

We’d only got two weeks of trade under our belt before Boris closed the hospitality sector down in March.

During lockdown we concentrated on adding some improvements and saw it as an opportunity for launch day ‘mark two’. The response has been fantastic from everyone we've seen and we have been so grateful. One of the positives we have seen from the whole situation has been people's loyalty to small and independent businesses like ours.

The new ways of working have been and continue to be a bit of a learning curve for everyone. We are now taking bookings and doing table service in an effort to remove unnecessary moving around for guests. This actually plays into our hands a little bit as we aim for a relaxed, continental feeling in the bar. It adds some finesse to the service I think, too.

We have some great lager options with Budvar and Dortmunder adding a touch of the European to the range. We also have a rotation on the draught beers, great tasting IPAs and draught ales from local and small craft breweries that change as we go. I also have an ‘only local’ policy on the cask ales. Abbeydale, Kelham Island and Brew Foundation have been on so far. The great thing about being an independent is that anything that gets suggested by guests can be seen on the pumps the following week.

​We have thrown an awful lot into Early Bar. Aside from the monumentally poor timing on opening, we are aiming to be the best bar on Crookes. We definitely have aspirations for more venues in the future. The ideas are already brewing for some exciting additions to the Sheffield hospitality scene.

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Early Bar, 96 Crookes, S10 1UG.

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