Hospitality venues in England reopened for outdoor service on 12 April 2021. Venues in Scotland and Wales are due to reopen outdoors on 26 April, and no date has been set yet for venues in Northern Ireland. The relaxation of the pandemic restrictions is great news for businesses and people working in the sector. But while some people will be rushing out for a drink, many people who’ve cut down or quit drinking recently will be more cautious about going back to the pub.
The pandemic has changed the way we drink. And while some people have drunk a lot more to cope with stress and anxiety, many others – especially social drinkers – have found it easy to cut down or stop altogether. In this video, recorded live on 11 April, Club Soda co-founder Dru Jaeger shares ten top tips for anyone heading back to the pub as lockdown eases.
Top tips for going back to the pub
If you’ve cut down or stopped drinking, and want to stick to your plans when the pubs reopen, follow these ten top tips.
- Consolidate and build on what’s happened during lockdown. If you’ve found it easy to tackle your drinking during the pandemic, it’s tempting to think these changes happened almost by accident. But your thoughts and actions helped you create and sustain change. Look back over lockdown, and remind yourself of what worked for you. It’s always better to build on your successes than beat yourself up for your mistakes.
- Open up at your own pace. Just because your local pub has reopened, you don’t have to follow the timetable set out by the government. There are many legitimate reasons you might want to be cautious about socialising again, so don’t feel rushed into going. Decide for yourself what you are comfortable doing and when.
- Remember, it’s OK to say no to an invitation. It’s frustrating not to have seen friends for months, of course. And you might be worried that future restrictions are inevitable. But you do have time. If you’d prefer to wait for indoor dining to reopen so you can go out for a meal, say so.
- Make a plan. Nobody who changed their drinking did it by winging it. If you want your evening to go to plan, you’ll need a plan! Consider where you are going, who will be there, when you are meeting and what you will drink. Keep your plan under review if you need to. You can always head to the loo for a quiet rethink, though remember to wear your mask indoors!
- Consider venues other than the pub. It’s not just pubs with gardens that are reopening, but all sorts of hospitality venues with outdoor space. If you would rather meet for coffee and cake, take control of the situation and suggest something that works for you.
- Check menus in advance if you can (or get there first if you can’t). If you know what’s available alcohol-free, you’ll feel much more confident when someone offers you a drink. Don’t guess what the bar might have. You can often download drinks menus from venue websites or arrive before your friends and have a quiet word with the staff.
- Other drinkers want to include you, so say yes to a drink. In British culture, offering someone a drink can be a way of saying, “I’m glad you’re here.” So if someone offers you a drink, don’t presume they are pressuring you to consume alcohol. You can ask for something non-alcoholic. Or offer to buy them a drink first so that you can stay in control.
- Remember that social drinkers don’t like drinking alone. If you are meeting up with a friend who likes a drink and you’re not drinking alcohol, things can get awkward. Your friend might feel uncomfortable having a drink if you’re not and could pressure you to make themselves feel better. If you think you might find yourself in this situation, go out in a group rather than one-on-one. However, remember the rule of six or two households!
- Always have two alcohol-free drinks first. If you are thinking about having some alcohol, don’t make it your first drink. Give yourself some time to settle in and catch up before you start on the booze. If you don’t manage to stick to your limits, starting later means you’ll drink less overall. So your two non-alcoholic drinks are an insurance policy against a nasty hangover.
- Remember you can go home. Let’s be honest. There may come a moment in the evening when your lovely drunk friends start getting a bit repetitive. If you stop enjoying yourself, you’re under no obligation to stay. You can go home whenever you want to.
If things don’t go to plan and you need help, we’re here for you. Club Soda’s courses are based on behaviour change science, and designed to support you when you want to drink mindfully or stop drinking. And if you work (or have ever worked) in the hospitality sector or drinks industry, you can access our courses for free, thanks to our partnership with The Drinks Trust.
Your questions answered
Ask Dru Live is on the second Sunday of the month. Join us on Facebook or YouTube to get your questions answered about every aspect of changing your drinking.