Relief as pub springs back to life after 'agonising' five month closure
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
After putting her life on pause for five long months, the landlady of one neighbourhood pub has told of her overwhelming relief at hearing the place filled with conversation again.
Before Monday, April 12, the last time landlady Janet White opened The Rose Tavern pub in Norwich's golden triangle, on Rupert Street, was November 4. The following day the second lockdown began.
"The past five months have been agonising," the 64-year-old said.
"It was torture being the only person rattling round a space which could easily have fit over a hundred people.
"I live at the pub and was here every day on my own. At times that became very mentally draining."
She said she had been lucky enough to avoid money worries and said she had been confident the pub would eventually reopen.
Business rate holidays, a reduction in rent, furloughing staff and grants from the government had helped.
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But she said: "For me personally though, the second and third lockdowns were awful.
"The first one was fine really: There were a lot of jobs we finally had capacity to complete, like refurbishing the upholstery, re-sanding tables and general maintenance.
"But by November there was nothing left to do, nothing left to tinker with.
"I'd try and keep myself busy but it was difficult. I'd come downstairs in the mornings and do a bit of admin, then head back upstairs in the evenings for a change of scenery."
Speaking about the decision not to open the Rose in December while Norfolk remained in Tier 2, Ms White said the substantial meal rule had thrown a spanner in the works.
"Our kitchen is a one-man band," she said. "To comply with the rule our chef would have had to be in there all day every day to make it worthwhile, and that would have been far too gruelling for him.
"Besides," she added, "I spent decades as a microbiologist researcher, and it was obvious the figures were on the rise.
"It felt morally dubious for us to be opening at a time when we might have been contributing to our own customers getting the virus. It was a tough decision but I think it was the right one."
For that reason, and on account of the sheer length of time the pub's doors have been bolted shut, both Ms White and one of her full-time staff members Georgia Tove Almkvist are thrilled to be back working again.
Ms White said: "I had a long day on Monday. I started getting the place ready at 8.30am for re-opening and didn't get to bed until after midnight.
"But it was wonderful to have people back in our garden again.
"Sometimes before the pandemic you'd think 'wouldn't it be nice to have a bit of peace and quiet?' but now I'm grateful for that time spent chatting with the regulars.
"It's lovely seeing familiar faces out with their friends and hearing the place filled with conversation."
Ms Almkvist, 24, said: "I have to admit I was worried about Janet, knowing she was pottering around here on her own.
"And there was some level of anxiety for me too. It was the uncertainty about whether any of this was ever going to end, if we'd be able to open when restrictions lifted, if anyone would turn up.
"But it's actually been really busy since we've reopened. We even had people queuing up before 3pm on Monday and Tuesday which was nice to see."
One of the things the Rose is known for is its quizzes, which were running three times a week last summer due to popular demand.
Ms Almkvist said there'd already been plenty of enquiries about when they'd return, which showed just how keen people were for normal life to resume.
After running the Rose for 14 years, before which she worked in antibiotics development at the John Innes Centre, Ms White said now was the time to "use or lose" your local pubs.
She said: "We really need people to support us now more than ever.
"If they don't, I imagine it won't be long before some of them begin to disappear."