Foreword by James Blunt; Co-owner of The Fox & Pheasant, Chelsea.
We gathered in large numbers, from different schools, on the street outside The Admiral Cod. We were all underage, as far as I can remember, and most had managed to get served. But the excitement was in the gathering. Cars struggled to get past, and to this day, I’m unsure how the pub managed to keep its licence.
For us, it was the start of the summer holidays, of a close relationship with each other as friends — and with pubs as a whole. Tell me a name, and I’ll have a memory. From The Goat in Boots, The Ifield, The Cadogan, The Shuckburgh, The Man in the Moon, The Black Bull, The Bush in Ovington or the Oyster Catcher in Rock — these are where I met my friends. Not met up with them. Met them, for the first time — and I have kept those friends to this day.
Most of the pubs have gone now. Even if they’ve “only changed their name”, it’s come with a rebranding that has stripped them of their soul, and left one obvious question — is it still a pub?
And the question is relevant for one clear reason. In a pub, you meet people. Strangers, of all ages and walks of life. From the moment you walk in, the eyes turn to see who has just joined. The ebb and flow of people coming and going. Humans touching the lives of other humans. That’s what I love about pubs. Which is why the coronavirus is as much a fan of them as I am.
When we bought The Fox & Pheasant in Chelsea three years ago, the one thing that everyone said — and there were a lot that said it — was: “please, don’t change it”. It was a failing business, needing investment and a good clean, but hundreds of people loved it as it was. And in the 18 months that we’ve been open, nothing has been more fun than to walk in and hear the buzz of people, together, having fun, catching up, telling stories.
It was a genuinely sad moment when the coronavirus forced us to close, but we’re using the lockdown as an unexpected opportunity to give it another good clean, and upgrade the bits we didn’t do the first time. And although we expect to be the last industry to open, we’re excited — because we’re the opposite of a lockdown, and we all deserve a drink.
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