Exhausted yet determined, St Albans’ pubs are hopeful for the future

The White Lion in St Albans.

The White Lion in St Albans. - Credit: Archant

Nearly two weeks after super Saturday, when pubs, cafés and restaurants were allowed to re-open, St Albans business owners are reflecting on this strange new world, in which customer behaviour is unpredictable, forecasting impossible, and their own processes have changed immeasurably.

The White Lion in St Albans.

The White Lion in St Albans. - Credit: Archant

Pubs seem to be weather dependent when it comes to attracting customers after re-opening.

“We have two marquees up, and lots of brollies,” says Alicia Nelson of The White Lion on Sopwell Lane, but the new process - there is a QR code on each table and ordering is by phone - has been smooth, and customers happy to be back.

“In some ways the new system works better than before,” Alicia says, “the longest someone had to wait for a drink on Saturday was 12 minutes.”

She had not known what to expect when they re-opened: “We wanted to take the safety above and beyond so people really felt safe here. We are such a small pub we had to completely change our systems.”

Despite this, The White Lion did have a super Saturday on the 4th: “We probably did 90 per cent of what we would have done on a Saturday,” says Alicia. But other days have been very quiet. And learning new ways of working, which are changing on a daily basis, has taken its toll: “We are all exhausted,” she laughs.

James Ward of Mad Squirrel Taproom in Heritage Close has also had to change his processes: “We have implemented a new QR code system where every customer can easily fill in their track-and-trace details and order to their table from their phones, keeping our guests and staff happy and safe.”

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He says customers have adapted well: “They have been polite, understanding of the new rules and genuinely excited to experience a bit of normality again.” Since he opened on July 4, the demand has been significant; he’s had consistent bookings and has also allowed walk-ins.