Hitchin pub landlord talks lockdown, ‘new normal’ and reopening excitement

PUBLISHED: 17:01 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:00 06 July 2020

The Rose & Crown Pub in Hitchin will reopen on Saturday. Picture: JP Matthews

The Rose & Crown Pub in Hitchin will reopen on Saturday. Picture: JP Matthews

Archant

The owner of a Hitchin pub has discussed lockdown, society’s ‘new normal’ and his excitement at reopening, as he prepares to greet customers again for the first time in months on Saturday.

The Rose & Crown Pub in Hitchin will reopen on Saturday. Picture: JP MatthewsThe Rose & Crown Pub in Hitchin will reopen on Saturday. Picture: JP Matthews

With the easing of lockdown and many pubs, restaurants and more expecting to open for the first time in months on ‘Super Saturday’, we spoke with the landlord of a local Hitchin pub.

John-Paul Matthews, better known as JP, has run The Rose and Crown pub in Hitchin’s Market Place for almost a year now.

He described the 14-week lockdown as a “bizarre time”, where he could finally do the odd-jobs around the pub and at home – but did admit he missed seeing the pub’s regular faces.

JP said: “We had the TVs on when Boris made the initial lockdown announcement. That was a surreal experience, we’re all listening to the TV and waiting for updates.

The Rose & Crown Pub in Hitchin will reopen on Saturday. Picture: JP MatthewsThe Rose & Crown Pub in Hitchin will reopen on Saturday. Picture: JP Matthews

“Everyone then decided to have their last hurrah before we closed, although we did shut early that night to ensure no-one would overindulge.

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“For myself and my team, we’ve been trying to keep in touch with our customer base during lockdown. One regular actually doesn’t have any family, so we became his ‘bubble’ and that really hits home the community feel that we try to provide.”

JP says he feels relieved to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, as the time of enforced pub closures is coming to an end.

The Rose & Crown will initially reopen with reduced hours and limited seating inside, with the 2m social distancing rules enforced, hand sanitizer stations and regular cleaning going on throughout the day.

JP says he has also been in regular contact with Public Health England and North Herts District Council’s Environmental Health team, to ensure reopening goes ahead as smooth as possible.

“We want to try to reduce risky contact time between ourselves and our guests and keep everyone safe.

“I think we’re gone above and beyond – different mops, and cloths, sanitizing stations and more. We want people to feel as safe as possible.

“Although we’re not quite back to normality, the idea that we can see those familiar faces again does excite me and I’m really looking forward to that on Saturday.


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