Eddie Matthews outside his bar in Virginia, which remains closed due to Coronavirus restrictions.

A slice of reality

“I think it's all madness,” says Eddie Matthews of the anomaly that pubs serving a significant meal are permitted to open, but traditional bars are not. “I see places that are open now and doing food and they are as busy as ever they were. Sure you couldn't move any place last [bank holiday] weekend that was serving food – they were all packed out the door. So I don't know what's the difference in them being open and us being open?”

As the old adage goes, if you can't beat them...

The owner of the popular bar on Virginia's Main Street freely admits he has to do a bit more looking into it, but plans to complete an online course and have health and safety undertake an inspection so he can serve food and reopen.

For a man about to start selling pizzas, Eddie Matthews is not exactly hyping it up. He has a pizza oven, but won't be employing a chef. Has he learned how to make nice doughs?

“No,” he replies, “they'll come frozen. I'll just throw them in. Handy, handy.”

How does he feel about having to do this?

“I'm not happy at all. I really don't see the difference if I'm legally allowed to open just because I'm serving pizza, why I can't open just if I'm serving drink?

“Everyone who's going to come in is going to have to order pizza whether they like it or not. But they can still sit there and drink as many pints as they want while they're eating their pizza. I don't see the logic or sense in it.

He adds: “And literally people can fly into the country from anywhere and walk in and do whatever they want, but you can't go down to your lcoal pub, which would have no problem social distancing 95% of the time – sure there's no one about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.”

Matthews is an historic bar, reportedly the oldest bar in the county. It's also a large bar. To reopen, Eddie has to get the bar marked out and rearrange some seating, but social distancing shouldn't be too problematic. He still expects to take a hit in income.

“Of course it is. If I can't let a crowd in on a Saturday night, which is my busiest time of the week, I don't think it will be worth my while opening at all. If you take my busy nights out of it, I have nothing at all – it wouldn't pay the bills sure. Literally.”

He can't see the pubs being let open while the government is “pushing very very hard” to open the schools in September.

“If that doesn't happen they're not going to let the pubs open at all. They can't have the pubs open and not the schools.”

Does he expect pubs to go back to the way they were next year?

“Pubs will never go back to the way they were. They won't ever. Even if I open up now, I'm going to have to close at 10.30pm at the latest, that'll be my hours, even on a Saturday night.”

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