Pub managers in Hackney tell how life is since lockdown eased

The Gun landlord Nick Stevens

The Gun landlord Nick Stevens outside his pub - Credit: Pol Allingham

Pub managers in Hackney have spoken to the Gazette about their experience opening the doors after the coronavirus lockdown gradually eased.

On April 12 pubs across the nation reopened after months in lockdown but only to serve customers outside.

The Gun on Well Street got off to a tough start missing the first Monday after struggling to get tables outside.

Then on opening day heaters blew, the cellar cooler exploded, the drains blocked and the whole thing cost them about £7,000.

Nick Stevens, landlord of The Gun pub in Hackney

Nick Stevens, landlord of The Gun pub in Hackney - Credit: Pol Allingham

Landlord Nick Stevens said: “It’s a bit like training for a marathon and then everything bursts, but it was funny in the end, and we got the money together.”

He added: “People have been attending in their droves.

“Lockdown galvanised how people felt about their locals, everyone’s excited about being back in the pub.”

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A successful crowdfunder, that included a vinyl album release called The Gun Aid LP, tide them over through lockdown with enough left over to donate to charity.

Now that they’re open Nick’s not concerned about the money, as long as they’re not losing it; he’s focussed on everything getting back into full swing.

“Well Street, for all its character, is windy," he said.

“We tripled the number of blankets we originally bought, because we have to wash them to keep covid-safe.

“But the British people are hardy.

“We’re really grateful for our locals coming out, they’re great, and I’ve noticed the distinct lack of people asking for discounts.”

The Clapton Hart pub

The Clapton Hart - Credit: Pol Allingham

Over at The Clapton Hart, on Lower Clapton Road, Madeleine Garcia took over as general manager on the first Monday of reopening.

That day, Garcia stood on the chair in front of the huge garden, rang the bell and introduced herself to great cheer.

“Everyone was having a great time," she said. “People keep grabbing me to say it’s just lovely.”

By week three she reckoned she was on first name terms with 50 per cent of her clientele.

She has been promoting independent and local breweries since her arrival.

In preparation, in January pub staff set up a bell-top tent, lined with bunting and festoon lighting, with nearly every seat covered.

They’ve built an outdoor bar that they hope to open on May 17 when further lockdown rules are eased and groups of six or two households can drink inside the pub.

Paper Dress Vintage

Paper Dress Vintage transforms into a bar in the back garden - Credit: Pol Allingham

At Paper Dress Vintage on Mare Street the doors are open throughout the day to shop for vintage clothes, and in the afternoon a glass of prosecco in the store might lead to more drinks in the back garden.

Steve Dix, the landlord, said: “It’s been going great.

“Everyone has been starved of entertainment, so we made reopening a special night, we got a DJ and saw loads of familiar faces.

“Plus we’ve been selling quite a few coats because it’s been quite chilly.”

The return has followed a large expansion: pre-covid the garden had five tables, and people mostly stood.

Paper Dress Vintage

Have a drink in Paper Dress Vintage's back garden after a spot of shopping - Credit: Pol Allingham

In November 2020 they built a roof over the back garden and expanded into the car park behind Bohemia Place Markets.

Now they have 28 tables, hosting 120 people seated.

Steve said they are lucky to have the busy Bohemia Place Markets happening behind them.

“We have all our normal trade, plus extra people from the market.

“We see lots of smiling faces and it’s good to get the regular people back.”

They’ve got DJs back in for now, playing background music rather than club nights.

He’s excited for the return of live music on May 17, which will launch their live music series Revive Live Music.

Paper Dress Vintage

Paper Dress Vintage will play live music in its covered back garden once lockdown rules allow - Credit: Pol Allingham

In light of the Covid restrictions they’re putting on early and late sets to allow more people to watch the gigs, 64 in total.

He added: “While it’s a lot of fun putting on DJs for lots of punters, and great to support artists again, we’re a grassroots music venue and that’s what we want to do.”