Why coronavirus won’t let Stepney’s famous George Tavern reopen on Saturday
- Credit: Mike Brooke
The East End’s famous George Tavern that should be opening on Saturday is to remain shut for the time being after three of its staff went down with Coronavirus.
Landlady Pauline Forster can’t risk letting customers in because there’s little chance of controlling the crowds that normally pack the Stepney watering hole night after night.
“We’re a ‘live music’ venue,” Pauline told the East London Advertiser. “I can’t risk my life or anyone else on the staff. It’s not safe to reopen at the moment.”
The government is encouraging the population to return to work too quickly, she believes.
“They’re wrong to push us back like this and risking lives,” she insists. “We went into lockdown far too late. Airports remained open with flights coming in from Spain where the pandemic was bad, then it spread here.”
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Three of her staff went down with Covid-19 at the beginning of the crisis, although all recovered.
Yet Pauline, at 70, still worries about their safety.
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“I’ve managed to survive so far,” the battle-seasoned campaigner tells you. “But I don’t want to be in danger from anyone walking into my pub who may have the virus without knowing it.
“A lot of people go round as it if it doesn’t exist. But the virus is still around.”
Only five weeks ago Pauline looked forward to reopening the historic “half way house” along the Commercial Road that has been a tavern on the site for 400 years. She gave it a lick of paint in traditional Georgian dark brown and hoisted rainbow flags on the roof as a tribute to the NHS.
The place was deep-cleaned and toilets replaced, ready for the day, but not just yet.
“Staying shut will be a struggle financially,” the keen entrepreneur admits. “But we can’t stage live music crammed with people which is what we’re known for and what people come to the East End to hear.”
The mother-of-five was tested a month ago in the “track and trace” programme to monitor coronavirus, following the outbreak among her staff, but still hasn’t heard the result.
It’s sad for a hardened campaigner who managed to fight off developers for a decade trying to encroach on The George with luxury housing that would endanger her 3am music license.
The George is often used by the BBC and film-makers for period dramas like a documentary on the Krays and the setting for a Sherlock Holmes movie, with the authentic period decor.
But Pauline must first get through the pandemic before feeling safe to open again.