It's been four long, dreary months since 23rd March 2020 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his lockdown measures to halt the spread of coronavirus — a move which cruelly snatched away our British-born right of going to the pub. The good news is that bars, restaurants and pubs finally reopen tomorrow, with appropriate safety measures, of course.
However, due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis on the hospitality sector, there is a risk that as many as half of UK pubs are unlikely to reopen after COVID-19. Camden Town Brewery has even created a new tinned beer, To The Pub American Pale Ale, with all proceeds going towards funding the production of kegs to give to pubs for free when they open.
But oh how we'll miss our locals if they close forever; the site of so many break-ups and make-ups. Ill-advised liquid lunches and after-work wind downs. Drunk Friday night seshes and lazy weekend recoveries. Cosy Sunday roasts and sun-drenched beer gardens. Beer-soaked blouses and late night lock-ins.
Those of us who desperately miss the pub will especially miss the log fires, the wooden beams, the sticky beer-covered floors, the questionable carpet and smell of middle-aged drunk men, because going to the pub is a rite of passage for many Brits. Pubs are sanctuaries for us to leave the tragic world behind, a space where we can forget all our troubles.
Whether you're sipping an ice cold glass of rosé, enjoying your first drop of pale ale after a hard day's work or noshing on a delicious meal as a local singer croons in the background, British pubs serve more memories than booze. So until we can finally stand shoulder to shoulder safely with our fellow punters, we've been reminiscing about The Good Times. Below are team R29's favourite pub memories, which we can't wait to relive all over again soon.
Jessica Morgan, Staff Writer
The Pub: The Railway Hotel, Southend-on-Sea, Essex
"This dark and dingy pub slap-bang in the middle of Saafend has been my safe haven for many years since I moved from London to Essex over a decade ago. My favourite night there was when I had my first headline gig. I sang with a local jazz band called The Baseys and every so often on a Sunday afternoon at 4pm, I'd join them on stage to sing my repertoire of Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and Dinah Washington in front of a wide-eyed and boozy crowd. This particular day was a big one: I was headlining my own show with my pianist Simon. It was a really huge moment for me and I have always been grateful to the Railway Hotel which offered me the grand stage to showcase my talent. Everyone travelled down from all over just to watch me perform and the pub was packed. My parents came too, as did my boyfriend at the time (who I had met at the pub and who also worked behind the bar) and all my friends.
"This local pub was the catalyst that kickstarted my music career before I embarked on multiple tours, huge stages at Glastonbury and Secret Garden Party and huge London venues such as Ain't Nothin' But The Blues and The Jazz Café (all pre-journalism, of course). The Railway Hotel, with its mismatched furniture, dark wood and sticky floors, as well as its plethora of local beers and delicious vegan menu, reminds me of all my fondest memories of all the friendships, make-ups and break-ups in my formative years, and I can't wait to go back and enjoy some more moments I'll never forget."
Alicia Lansom, Editorial Assistant
The Pub: The Stratford Haven, Nottingham
"If there is one place you can guarantee to see every single person you ever went to school with, it’s The Stratford Haven on Christmas Eve. I am not kidding you when I say that I have known people to fly home from the other side of the world to make it in time for the legendary Christmas countdown. In theory, it makes no sense – they run out of pint glasses by 9pm, the water in the toilets shuts off almost immediately and you have to stand in a sweaty crowd for the entire evening. But despite all of this, it is without a doubt my favourite night out of the year. Out of all my sessions at ‘The Strat’ however, the best night has to be Christmas Eve 2017.
"Having frequented this old man’s boozer for the majority of my teenage-turned-adult years, it felt like there was little left to learn about it. But suddenly, as the clock struck midnight, out of nowhere the angelic sounds of Wham’s 1984 hit ‘Last Christmas’ started playing overhead. It turns out the pub had recently installed a sound system, which was enough to get the entire room up on their chairs and thumping the ceiling as we all sang in unison. The chorus of drunken voices singing Christmas classics went on long into the night, concluding with a snowy walk home with my best childhood pals. I’m honestly counting down the minutes until I can be reunited with them once more to do it all over again."
Jacqueline Kilikita, Beauty Editor
The Pub: The Old Queen's Head, Islington
"I’ll be honest. London pubs aren’t that great, unless they’re in Hampstead or Richmond or somewhere cute and quiet. But all of my best nights out have been at The Old Queen’s Head just off Upper Street in Islington, specifically the little loft room tucked away from the main bar by an incognito staircase. Every Saturday evening, it transforms into a dark and sweaty club that blasts out nonstop hip hop & RNB, from ‘90s Destiny’s Child and throwback Missy Elliott to Bryson Tiller and obviously lots of Drake. It’s so good and I always stay 'til closing.
"The last time I was there, I wore some seriously lairy high-waisted trousers — a good conversation-starter it seems! I’d recently been ghosted for the 10th time and wasn’t interested in anything other than knocking back vodka lime sodas and dancing until my heels broke (a friend had to give me a fireman’s lift to the kebab shop after one snapped clean off). I laughed, I cried and I met two girls in the loos who have since become good friends of mine. The next day, though, my friends all reminisced about how I gave an 'utterly, utterly gorgeous' Noah Centineo lookalike the cold shoulder. Regrets. While events at The Old Queen’s Head have been cancelled until further notice, I look forward to heading down for cocktail and a roast when they’re back in business."
Vicky Spratt, Features Editor
The Pub: The Crown, Old Oxted
"When I was doing my A levels and my degree I worked at The Crown. I couldn’t reach the glasses above the bar so I had to stand on a crate. The glass washer would pipe burning steam into my face whenever I turned it on. A boy two years above me at school once got very cross with me when I threw his amaretto away at closing time because I wanted to go home. I dropped a plate of nachos all over the lap of a girl in my year who I was genuinely terrified of because I was concentrating so hard on not dropping them. There is almost nothing of note that happened between the ages of 15 and 21 in my life that didn’t happen inside the creaking haunted walls or in the garden of this pub.
"My best memory here, though, has to be the Christmas Eve of 2006. Christmas Eve at The Crown was always like a winter festival. Think of it like 3D Facebook. That year, I was home from uni for the holidays for the first time. Someone (not me!) had decided to play The Fratellis on a loop and I was serving slopping drinks to a never-ending stream of customers, all of whom I went to school with. Suddenly, a very familiar face appeared before me, his eyes blinking and unable to properly fix on mine. It was the boy I had gone out with on and off since the day I got my GCSE results when I bumped into him in the street and he told me I had something in my teeth. I hadn’t seen him since I left to start my first year earlier in the autumn. He didn’t go to uni and he’d told me he felt 'left behind'. He told me he thought I was 'better than The Fratellis'. I laughed and gave him his pint of Amstel for free. At the end of the night, he was waiting for me beside the bar."
Jess Commons, Lifestyle Director
Pub: The Montague Arms (RIP), New Cross, London
"I read about this pub in an interview with a band in NME (it was 2007, don’t @ me) and when I moved in down the road, and until it closed down several years ago (with a brief reopening), it was one of my favourite places in the world.
Owned by a very, very elderly couple who I think hated every last one of us, it was packed to the rafters with oddities like a centuries old diver's helmet and a carriage pulled by a full-size zebra. Over the years, I saw countless bands there that went on to do great things (who all paled in comparison to the blind organist who played late into the night), it was where I met my fiancé and watched him play countless times. It was where friends covered themselves in hot wax in the name of ‘performance art’, it was where you could huddle up, hungover on a Sunday, working your way through a questionable roast and arguing over a game of Trivial Pursuit from the ‘70s. When the couple who owned it died, it closed down, and when it reopened, all of the stuff from inside was gone, the beer taps and the windows and the toilets had been cleaned and nothing was the same at all. I miss that pub and I’m forever grateful to the owners for giving us that space to grow up in. Without it, almost nothing would have been the same."
Georgia Murray, Junior Fashion Editor
The Pub: Hope & Anchor, Leamington Spa
"Besides home and school, I think I spent the majority of my youth in The Hope. Myself and three friends had a weekly tradition that facilitated our underage drinking when the weather wasn’t good enough to sit mainlining Lambrini in a park. We’d start at Millennium Balti for a questionably cheap curry and £1 vodka mixers ("Jalfrezi, rice, naan and three vodka cranberries please fella!") before making our way down the backstreets of the bottom of town to The Hope. We never saw any other punters in there, and there was surely some unspoken code of silence between us and the bar staff that meant we were welcomed heartily despite the fact we were very clearly 15 years old.
"We played pool for hours, snogged boys from school, shared earphones to blast and sing along to Kate Nash on our iPod Nano, and put the world to rights over watery, flat, warm lager, while a rotating cast of friends and crushes would join us at various points in the night. The floors were sticky and despite the distinct vibe of 'failing pub in a small town', it felt like the coolest place we could be every time we walked through that door. We kept up our loyalty to The Hope, even when we looked old enough to get into the town’s only club, and despite having not stepped foot in there since I left for university, every time I walk past it my heart does a little flutter. Sure, the pubs I frequent now are cleaner and the drinks I buy more expensive, but there’ll always be a place in my heart for The Hope."