LAST week, as I squinted down an empty bottleneck and watched the last of my lockdown liquor trickle out, I thought about hanging up my trilby and trench coat for good.

The house, like all the pubs in this city, had run dry.

What use is a PubSpy without a pub? Like a cowboy with no cattle, readers, I thought I had yeed my last haw.

I was ready to scan the small print and plead for some kind of furlough arrangement.

But then, a welcome newsflash.

Last week, the Government added off-licences to the list of essential retailers still permitted to trade amid the pandemic.

There was no time to question that thinking.

In a flash I dusted myself off, swept aside the clinking empties at my feet, donned my gloves and snapped on a fetching face-mask.

Once more, readers, I lifted my coat off the hook, patted down my hat, and slunk out into the night.

Keeping covered up and following at a distance are second nature for a spook. In minutes I arrived at The Wine Lodge in Clifton Hill, a neighbourhood corner shop-cum-off-licence.

Outside, beside the red neon “open” sign, a notice warns customers of the precautions they should take to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.

It’s worth noting that it is not advisable to leave the house willy-nilly nowadays – even if off-licences have been classed as crucial.

I was getting groceries as well as a drink, but even a foray to the shops for essentials comes with the risk of spreading the virus.

Inside, the The Wine Lodge is poky and crammed with stock. The alcohol is plentiful and cheap. Four tinnies for £5.79.

On the way in, I had a polite-off with a customer on their way out. We took pains to keep two metres apart.

There were just two people inside, and we didn’t come close. Five stars for social distancing.

The shopkeeper had the right idea. He was wearing a heavy-duty mask, latex gloves and carrying a bundle of protective aprons.

You can pay contactless, and shoppers shirking supermarkets will be pleased to hear that The Wine Lodge has avoided the worst of the panic buying.

Prominently on display, there were toilet rolls at an un-inflated £1.49, and even jumbo rolls at a pre-lockdown £2.49.

Essentials acquired, I scuttled home, careful not to come within sneezing distance of another soul, and sunk into the sofa to mull things over.

I’d managed to bag a pint for less than £2. Not bad. The Wine Lodge is a fine place to pick up a drink and a few leaves of loo roll.

But it’s a cheerless substitute for a busting Brighton boozer.

Before long, I was once more wallowing in memories of the good times.

I think back to the camaraderie of The Fiddler’s Elbow in Brighton, or the regulars – and rows – at the Bat and Ball Inn in Ditchling Road.

Hell, I even miss grabbing a bag of cans and yelling at youths from a park bench in Worthing.

It may surprise you to hear that I am not a key worker. I’m missing the company on the job.

It’s the reason I’m ordinarily out each week, nosing around the city’s watering holes.

They bring big beasts — like the huge bloke who hurled all over my shoes at the legendary County Oak.

On this isolated evening, even that interaction warms the cockles of my pub-starved heart.

In these strange times, we have to cling to whatever we’ve got – whether that’s a fleeting moment of eye contact down the offie, fond memories of pubs past, or the promise of drinks to come in some altered, post-lockdown world.

So I’m holding out for the good times ahead, and keeping my hat on its hook, ready for next time.

Until then, stay safe, and keep your distance. Over and out.

  • At The Argus, we are championing the work of traders during the coronavirus pandemic as part of our #BackingSussexBusiness campaign. We are always interested to hear how the community is coming together in this crisis. If you know of a local business battling to do all it can in these tough times and/or offering support to the local community, please get in touch at and