Pubs in Kensal reopen after Covid lockdown
- Credit: Ellie Cook
Many pubs and restaurants reopened today, as one of the sectors hit hardest by coronavirus restrictions welcomed customers back into beer gardens.
In Kensal, a year away from normality is making a difference to what drinkers are seeing as they order a pint for the first time in months.
Seraphina Myers, who part-owns The Rise in Kensal Rise and has lived in the area for 20 years, had her “fingers crossed that it will be nice weather" for regulars.
She said: “We opened for three days, then sadly had to shut, so we haven’t really opened this as a new business yet.
"There’s a lot of competition in the area, and we want to have something slightly different and more unique, so we decided to go for the authentic Italian, and we’re importing a lot of the produce from southern Italy.”
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As many pubs have, The Rise is now outfitted with extra outdoor seating, to accommodate both customers and government restrictions. Between changing the menus, the layout and the timetable, the last year has been marked with alterations and adaptations.
“It’s a funny time. It’s a bit of ‘let’s see what works. We’ve been shut for so long, we might as well be open as much as we can,” she added.
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Just down the street in Kensal Green is Parlour, tucked away into a modest side street. Owner Jesse Dunford Wood took the restrictions as a challenge to diversify his pub’s offerings in March 2020. Unlike The Rise, Boxing Day was the only day which Parlour shut its doors.
Parlour became a “full-on shop, selling meat and fish and sushi, and vegetables and you-name-it.” Most importantly, in that first lockdown, “toilet roll was the hot ticket,” beamed Dunford Wood. “Give the people what they want.”
After reopening as a pub in July, Parlour weathered another lockdown in November once again repurposing itself as a shop.
“I was really nervous about how it was all going to work out,” laughs Dunford Wood. “We were literally Googling ‘how much is a bunch of asparagus.'"
As Christmas approached, they had prepared for jam-packed day before coronavirus restrictions tightened once more.
“We had about 200 people booked for Christmas lunch, and then we had to phone them all and say, “Do you want to have it to take away instead?”’
“It’s not just that our plans changed, everyone’s plans changed.”
Dunford Wood is confident that staying open throughout the pandemic has earned Parlour a place in the hearts of their customers more than closure ever could.
“The loyal client base has helped us over the last year, but also, we’ve helped them a lot over the last year. By continuing to be open over the whole of this period, we’ve earned a lot of local respect, and our local reputation has soared. I think every other business closed for some part, or all of it.
“Because people are getting used to coming here, and us being reliable, it makes us much more accessible.”
Not locking its doors during lockdown has another added bonus for Parlour; prepping for today’s relaxation of restrictions was “hasn’t been the biggest shock to the system, reopening, because it’s just yet another evolution of what we have already been doing.”
Like The Rise, Parlour invested in more outdoor seating, and have 50 seats undercover – 32 more than they had in November. They’re keen to have space for anyone who wants to be able to grab a drink with friends and family again. “We always find space for people, no matter what happens, even if it’s ‘budge up, you’ve got these two people sitting at your table,’ or, ‘give us ten minutes, have a pint, and we’ll find you a table,’” he added.
The pandemic has posed all kinds of problems and challenges, but was not always unwelcome for Dunford Wood. “I’ve quite enjoyed it, in a sick kind of way. I did freak out quite a lot in the first couple of weeks.”
“I’ve enjoyed having evenings off and spending it with my family, which has been incredible, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of evolving, and having your hand forced in the situation.”