Once we’ve lived through this, let’s not go to the pub

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I don’t need to tell you that this pandemic has been rough. For better or worse, none of us are the same people we were in 2019. Every aspect of our lives has changed dramatically: we can’t look forward to activities involving others outside our home in case there are sudden new restrictions, the way we work has changed, and we’ve now seen all the good stuff on Netflix.

So, when we finally emerge from this pandemic fully vaccinated (probably some time around 2025 at this rate), let’s not just go back to the way things were, but make society better. And let’s start with pubs, because I think it’s time we admit that they’re just not all they’re cracked up to be.

Let’s start with pubs, because I think it’s time we admit that they’re just not all they’re cracked up to be.Credit:iStock

In the Before Times, it was common for most work events and after-work events to be held in pubs all over the world. Like 23 per cent of Australians (bolstered by a rising number of Millennials and Gen Zers), I don’t drink alcohol. But, having spent countless hours in these poorly lit, overly loud, perpetually sticky and ludicrously overpriced venues, I can understand why some people are driven to drink to get through it. There’s only so many $7 substandard mixers from those mouldy taps in half-clean glasses you can have before the novelty wears off.

While I understand that the music in these places is deliberately loud so you’re forced to shout in each others ears, making your throat sore and another drink seem like a good choice, it means they don’t exactly make great venues for conversation. Then again, drunk people are hardly good conversationalists (no matter how interesting they think the words they’re slurring are), so that might be for the best.

Pubs are, however, fantastic venues for live music, assuming the people who moved into the area for the “culture” haven’t had the live music industry completely shut down by that point.

So, when we eventually do emerge from this pandemic, the time has come to rethink this ancient and inconvenient practice and move onto something better.

Hanging out with friends can involve activities other than drinking. Credit:iStock

Sober bars have opened up in both Melbourne and Sydney, with plenty of delicious non-alcoholic drinks, so at least non-drinkers aren’t forced to have those sad lemon lime and bitters that are half cordial that pubs seem to specialise in. But you’re still paying through the nose for what is essentially soft drink, and I’m not sure how long they can keep the stickiness at bay.

But the rise of board game bars, craft cafes and other activities gives me hope that the future holds more interesting events where drinkers have access to the alcohol they enjoy, but non-drinkers can still have a good time and not be left out. It would be great if there were also lower-cost, late-night socialisation options to accommodate everyone, though that is harder to imagine in winter.

So, whenever lockdown five happens, or even between lockdowns, let’s take this opportunity to think outside the expected, and imagine better. Or at least learn how to make a decent lemon lime and bitters.

Alice Clarke is an award-winning freelance journalist, producer and presenter.

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