There’s a pub at Taylor Square in Sydney called “The Oxford” which I’ve visited on many, many occasions. Back in the 90s, it was a gay pub and it was always packed to the rafters. I have many, many fond memories of the pub during those years.
Though I don’t recall exactly when it was, they re-developed the pub a number of years ago, and seeking to attract a broader and presumably larger clientelle, they decided they were no longer running a “gay pub”. The gays went away, but they weren’t replaced by anyone else, and so for many years, the pub has struggled. A couple of years ago they became a “gay pub” again, with rainbow flags and drag queens, and slowly they’ve been rebuilding. But even a year ago, they were still struggling to attract people to eat and drink, especially earlier in the week.
But today, the pub was pretty full, and “packed to the rafters” in a “COVID-friendly” kinda way. It wasn’t exactly 90s glory days, but it also wasn’t half empty, as it has been for quite some time. Though they confirmed my entry, I decided there were “too many” people for my liking. “Sorry, I can’t stay, there’s too many people for me”, I told the bouncer, as I gained entry and left less than a minute later.
I’m sure their client base will return to “normal” after the novelty of “Freedom Day” wears off.
Most of the other pubs in my area also had large crowds today, including my “local”, the “Crown Hotel” on Cleveland Street. “The Crown” attracts a generally older crowd, more “working class” than most of the other pubs in the area. They’re also a fairly loyal crowd with lots of “regular drinkers” who know each other, and who know the bar staff by name. Going in today, it was like Rob, Lily and the others had been put into a giant freezer over the last months, and were thawed only yesterday, in preparation for re-opening.
I had a chat with one of the “locals” and his partner later this afternoon, which was very nice. They both LIKE A BEER, and were pleased the pub had re-opened. I’m also looking forward to catching up with a mutual friend who continued to work today, but who will probably be up for a beer later in the week.
As the Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews declared last year, people are “back on the beers”.
The other business type that seemed pretty popular today were the hairdressers.
Interestingly though, people seem to have taken on board a “mixed response” to face mask wearing. We don’t NEED to wear face masks in public anymore. But I noticed in the city today, most people were still wearing them. Closer to home in Surry Hills, mask wearing was probably down to 50/50. In Surry Hills, I noticed it was younger people who were less likely to be wearing masks. Only a few hundred metres from all of the action, maybe people were associating face masks with pollution? (Surry Hills is a leafier, greener place).
Having seen the news reports about the crazy behaviour of midnight shopping and hair dresser appointments, I got a call from Pat, checking in to see if I was safe and sound. My family in Lismore have been worried about my return to Sydney, as they watch the daily news reports about all the cases here. “It looks pretty mad on the TV”, Pat told me.
The roads today were also busy, and I felt a sense of sadness that people haven’t learned the “lessons” of the last four months of lockdown. And I think there are genuinely “lessons” that we, as humans, don’t NEED to go shopping everyday, don’t NEED to consume as much as we have been. Yes, you have to find the right balance, but I worry that we’re headed back to the way it was without, perhaps, much reflection?