“It’s bloomin’ dangerous us being in here drinking,” said a regular at the Orchard Inn on Monday evening, only a few hours after prime minister Boris Johnson advised people across the UK not to frequent pubs, clubs or theatres.
There was one main topic of conversation in this Spike Island pub, with friends comparing stories of queues at Costco and how many packets of Paracetamol they had at home.
“It’s all getting a bit doom and gloom innit?” said a woman with white hair, taking off her coat.
“We’re all going to die tomorrow,” said another regular propping up the bar. “So let’s go for it!”
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Stood outside, a 50-something man in a leather jacket wondered whether he still would be able to enjoy fresh cider if the Orchard temporarily closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and how shoplifters and by association Bristol’s drugs industry would cope if other businesses started shutting.
So why was he here when the advice from Number 10 was to stay at home? “It’s about having a beer, a debrief and being sensible,” he said. “And I have always been fastidious about washing my hands.”
Answering the same question and like everyone else in here on Monday not wanting to give their name, his friend said: “I don’t work in a big office. I walk my dog. I go to the pub. We can stick together, keep it on the lowdown.”
“People want a bit of cheering up,” he added. “While the prime minister is standing on a pedestal saying we are going to lose loved ones, people still have to enjoy themselves.”
Soon before 8pm, as the band arrived for their weekly blues jam, landlady Steph Iles came downstairs to check that everything was okay in the pub that she took over in December 2018 with her partner Sam Marriott.
“We have got no choice but to carry on,” she said. “We have a business to run. It seems like things are going to get worse before they get better, but we have not got a choice.”
Steph said that she and her team are taking extra precautions, such as cleaning door handles every hour, but going card-only like many other hospitality businesses in Bristol is out of the question here with their mostly older clientele.
“It’s business as usual until we are forced to close.”
Main photo by Martin Booth