The Trials and Tribulations of 2020

I think we can all agree that as the clocks chimed at midnight between December 31st 2019 and January 1st 2020 and we pictured the year ahead (whilst muddling our way through Auld Lang Syne) nobody saw this coming. The first week of January in this trade is all about making plans for the year ahead, although trade is slow it’s a very exciting week as we look towards the future and what the next 12 months has in store. All of our tastings were in the diary, our Solihull pop-up (it will be back!) was starting to come together and we were eager and ready to take 2020 by storm.

And then March hit. We knew that Covid was out there, but we were still unaware of what was about to happen. Cases rose, we all sat glued to the news, they closed Italy, then France and Spain. People became weary about going out, bookings started dwindling, “social distancing” became everyones favourite portmanteau and we were scared. We knew a hospitality shutdown was coming, but we just didn’t know when. But what we did know, is that we had to act quickly. And so we sat, and we discussed, and we planned. Almost instantly “Arch 13 at Home” was born.

Then it happened. What we expected to be an announcement for the closure of hospitality in London was actually a nation-wide closure. It would be a lie to say it wasn’t an emotional moment. And so, on a Friday night, at 8pm, the team were sat in an empty bar, finishing the open bottles of Champagne (well, someone had to) and looking towards the future and what it would bring. Niamh went back home to be with her family in Bristol, Angie started selling her bakes and Phoebe stuck by my side, ready for whatever I threw at her next.

And then the phone started to ring, and the orders started to come in, and it rang, and it rang, again, and again. We were overwhelmed with the support that was thrown at us by the city of Birmingham. We moved the furniture to set up our “cheese wrapping production line”. And we added more and more tables. There were boxes and boxes of wine. I couldn’t get the cheese in fast enough and my dad and his Skoda became more familiar with the West Midlands than ever before. Was it the year we had planned? Certainly not. Did we adapt to the hand that had been dealt? But of course. “Improvidus, Apto, Quod Victum” Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.

Fast forward to June and we were ready to reopen the shop, shelves had been stocked and the screens were up on the counters. I have to say, had I of walked into a bar or wine shop this time last year and seen screens on the counters as we have now I’d be slightly concerned about the area of town I had found myself in. We transformed the bar area into a deli, sourced loads of local produce and pushed through.

Being able to reopen in July bought mixed feelings. What would service look like? Could it work with half the capacity? Did we even remember how to do our jobs? We’re so grateful to everyone that’s joined us in the bar over the last few months, it’s been truly fantastic to talk to real people again and we hope it’s able to continue over the winter period.

Although “normal” looks a little way off and the future is still uncertain for hospitality, the resilience of this city and the independent businesses that make it has been inspiring to be a part of.

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