It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter in England.
So, as four months of a nationwide lockdown finally came to an end, nothing was going to stop people from enjoying a refreshing pint of beer at the crack of dawn on a Monday morning—not even driving rain, freezing temperatures, and some pretty unseasonal snowfall.
Pubs started serving outdoors again as part of a reopening plan that also covers indoor gym sessions, swimming pools, non-essential shops, beauty salons, and, for those who have been gagging to see some sad animals, zoos. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had urged people to “behave responsibly” with their new freedoms but didn’t explicitly say they shouldn’t get drunk in the snow before having breakfast.
One pub in the town of Huddersfield was swamped when it opened at the stroke of midnight. “We didn’t even know if anyone was going to come,” said the pub landlord fittingly named Ian Snowball. “It’s in Huddersfield, it’s midnight, it’s freezing cold—but look, everyone has come.”
One drinker commented matter-of-factly: “It was snowing earlier but I was still going to come out, I just put my coat on.” Another, sitting in a thick jacket next to an icy-looking gin and tonic, made the fair point: “After 14 months of not going anywhere, except funerals, it’s a great place.”
Sky News reported that 50 pub-goers headed to the Fox On The Hill pub in south London this morning. The most emotional was perhaps Tony Blake, 59, who gushed to the news network: “I am so happy that it’s open again, it’s unbelievable, I’m so happy.” Student Sasha Carrington, 19, said she planned to stay there for the entire freezing cold day, explaining: “We’ve got our layers on, thermals, we’re going to stay outside.”
Pippa Ingram, 51, and Sue Bell, 55, celebrated a chilly seaside pint in Kent, with Ingram describing her first sip in detail. “Absolutely delicious,” she said. “It’s not gonna last long at all! That is banging.” Back in Huddersfield, in footage timestamped at 8:17 a.m., a woman identified only as Sandy was seen having pints with her friends, and she told Good Morning Britain: “It’s not that cold after a while when you’ve sat in the sun.”
One pub in Coventry appears to have taken things slightly too far. Videos posted online showed more than 100 people lining the street outside the Oak Inn after it publicized its grand plans to open a massive outdoor space with heaters, marquees, and blankets. The pub is now under investigation for its “unmanageable amounts of visitors.”
But, largely, the grand reopening has been welcomed as a major landmark—particularly following the success of Britain’s vaccine rollout, which has many hoping that there won’t be another lockdown. Nicholas Hair, landlord of the Kentish Belle in southeast London, told BBC News that there was a “sense of celebration” in the country, adding, “I’m hoping this is a sort of rebirth, and that we’re reopen for the foreseeable.”
As for Boris himself, government sources confirmed that the prime minister received a long-awaited haircut on Monday—but his planned trip to the pub has been canceled out of respect for the late Prince Philip.