They are struggling to navigate the new tier 2 restrictions in Navigator Square. The small, pedestrianised enclave at the top of the Holloway Road in Archway, north London, is a hive of activity on Saturdays. A market draws crowds who come for artisanal breads and French cheeses.
As a result, the Archway Tavern, famous for featuring on the front cover of the Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies, has enjoyed a promising start since it reopened post-lockdown.
After years of lying empty, it was beginning to attract a varied crowd who came for coffee in the morning, light lunches with friends and after-work drinks with colleagues at night.
On Friday night, before the restrictions kicked in, it was packed as people made the most of what could be the last hurrah of 2020. But by lunchtime yesterday, the wooden tables outside the pub were almost empty.
Confusion and fear generated by the new tier 2 rules appears to be a major factor in people staying away, according to Chriss Cinçon, a bartender at the tavern. “When you see pubs try to ... put some lights back into a beautiful building, putting some life back into this neighbourhood, having all these obstacles to go through – it’s such a shame,” he said.
When the tavern reopened in the summer, there was no 10pm curfew and things were looking up. “Those 10-until-12 hours were very good for business,” Cinçon said. Now, with tier 2 preventing friends from meeting inside, the pub is having to push its after-10pm takeaway service as an income stream.
Cinçon is worried about what the new restrictions mean for bar staff. The new job support scheme does not start until November, so people like him, who might soon be without work, could go weeks without pay.
In the meantime, he finds himself in uncharted territory, saying: “We’re not the police: I’m not going to ask to see proof of residence. It puts us in a very difficult situation having to navigate the guidelines.”
A few hundred yards away at St John’s Tavern, general manager Alistair Wildblood is standing next to a hand-sanitiser dispenser at the door, greeting customers.
He has spent the morning fielding calls from people wanting to know if they can still come for a meal or a drink, and if so with whom. The tavern is popular with families and is renowned for its food. As such, it is better protected than some venues.
But Wildblood fears for others in the trade, saying: “I’ve got a friend who has a cocktail bar in Shoreditch that gets busy at 11pm. He’s now trying to do a 6-until-10 cocktail service.”