Once again, not a pub survey as such, but some friends and I took a trip to New Brighton yesterday, giving us a chance to see how the new rules are affecting the pub experience.
We started in Wetherspoon's Master Mariner, where the friendly "guard" at the entrance soon had us signed in, then we walked up to the counter to check out the real ales, ordered Abbots, "Where are you sitting?", "Over there", and everything was sorted and the pints were soon brought to us, and very welcome they were too! The pub was much emptier than we have observed on previous visits, but still ticking over gently. This has never been a favourite Wetherspoon's of mine, parts of it are very dark and dingy.
Next, across the road to the Seahorse, a large dining place in the Greene King Hungry Horse chain. Here they made a tedious palaver of signing in, giving us a table and taking our order before finally bringing us some Speckled Hen that was rather past its best. There were only three other customers in, the four or five staff (presumably plus one or two in the kitchen) were mostly idle. I can't see Greene King putting up with this sort of loss for long, although I'm sure it's busier at other times of the day, other days of the week, and when it's not raining.
We crossed back over the road to try the Stage Door Tap but it and the hotel seem to be closed at the moment.
Up on Victoria Road we visited the Bow-Legged Beagle. Here a friendly barman soon sorted us out with pints of something gorgeous. The bar was quite busy with locals who chatted to each other and the barman. A fine pub, this, which I highly recommend.
I noticed some other changes on Victoria Road: The Stag seems to have reverted to its previous name, the New Brighton Hotel; the Railway, closed last time I was here, has re-opened as the James Atherton; and there's a new Homebrew Tap in the same row of shops as the Beagle.
Our final call was the Perch Rock which was well filled with cheerful regulars, but not overcrowded. The sign-in, order, and service procedures were quick and friendly and we were soon enjoying some fine Landlord. Unlike my previous visits we sat in one of the back rooms, which was comfortable and not too full. So comfortable, in fact, that we decided to have another round here, before heading home.
So, three out of four places we visited were still managing to provide a decent pubby experience despite the table service only rules, which I think must be good news.
A note of explanation to those who don't live in the area: The new pub rules - table service only and close at ten - which have been introduced in England today (Thursday) have applied as a local lockdown in Merseyside since Tuesday, hence we got a short preview of the new national normal.