We, like the rest of the UK shut down in March. Re-opening has been a challenge, the new rules are strict, and rightly so. But when you have a relatively tiny space they represent even more of a challenge.
We started thinking about the eventual re-opening in May. We already had a system in place, that we instigated prior to lockdown, that some thought was a bit draconian at the time, but with hindsight agree that it was the right thing to do. But it was not going to be enough.
After much internal discussion, we had by then arrived at the conclusion that any further help from the government was unlikely, and that we would have to put additional special measures in place before we could re-open. And that a vaccine before Easter 2021 was basically not going to happen, the testing measures to make sure such things are safe would make sure of that. So we now had an idea of how long we would need to apply these measures, over this length of time they needed to be as simple as possible, easy to implement and keep track of. They would also need the cooperation of our customers.
Mac is not your usual sort of bloke, after 40 years at sea he has picked up a few ideas and techniques along the way. Well they tend to train sailors a little bit in EVERYTHING, so things like barrier nursing, biological warfare (it was the 80’s), quarantine measures and good hygiene practices were all picked up along the way and made a good starting point.
We then started trying to plan out a roadmap showing the way forward. The backs of many envelopes and fag packets later, we felt we had something that we could achieve.
We decided to concentrate on our RPG players first. Our RPG guys were all North Devon residents. The local incidence of the virus was well below the national average. We were even below the 5 year rolling average for all deaths, not just anything CORVID related. As we did not know when we could actually open the doors, it also made sense to treat this years tourist income as an unlikely bonus and financially plan accordingly.
We then started to engage our regular RPG players in conversation, we have a private Facebook group for them, and used that to discuss what we were planning.Its pointless getting all this in place if your customers don’t want to support it moving forward.
We had been watching what countries around the world were doing to control the virus, especially places like South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, as they seemed to be doing better than most European and American nations.
Japan is a no-brainer really, they had around 6 or 7 deaths per million population, the UK had about 500. Our populations are broadly similar age wise, their public transport in city’s is famously crowded, both countries have a good healthcare infrastructure, they have a higher population density, they are a similar communications/travel hub for surrounding countries. The big difference? A lot of Japanese habitually wear masks outside the home/office anyway, and the start of this pandemic saw most of the rest of the population following suit. So face masks are a good idea.
South Korea, they seem to have smashed the whole contact tracing thing. And as a result seem to very much be on top of things.The governments pursuit of an app for this turned out to be a bad idea, but then nobody else seems to have a better one. So the Korean idea of using actual people to contract trace is the way to go. So as we are unsure of the central government system, on a scale to suit us. A central, private, communications hub, limited to staff and players only is a must, and will ensue that we are all as well informed as possible. Using Facebook means that we don’t have to worry about data security, Facebook handles that.
Thailand and Vietnam have shown us ways to get things started again. PPE for staff, barriers between customers and cleaning routines during opening hours were all taken from examples used with apparent success there first.
We picked up the idea of fogging much closer to home, a friend runs a campsite and B&B and told us about it. It seemed like a great idea, so we researched it and got the stuff we needed together.
The thing about RPG’s is that they are Role Playing Games, being able to use facial expression is a vital part of how we, as humans, communicate. So players need to see faces, they need to gesticulate to each other. They don’t handle issues like lag, multiple voices coming from a single point (loudspeakers in a discord based game), multiple small images vying for attention or off camera gestures very well. But they do tend to lean forward and engage with one another if given the chance. So we planned the RPG table to accommodate this while it was still easy to get hold of the acrylic sheets needed for the barriers. I believe that the wait is some weeks at the moment. Each player gets their own table screened and sealed off from everybody else, it does muffle the sound slightly but its the best we can do, the mark one failed as it was too big and you could not hear properly.
We got on with stripping out the games library, as having it stowed away in crates made cleaning easier for us. We just had the new games for sale out for now. The chairs and stools were mostly stowed away too. New storage out the back, lots of stuff packed away. Screens up around the kitchen area. Easy clean minimilisation was the name of the game.
So we had a few things in place, waiting for the guidance was a pain. Would we be able to use what we had arrived at through consideration, discussion, planning and building, as something we could keep up for the long term. Or would the new rules mean that we had to start from scratch?
It turned out to be a bit of both, we had hit most of the nails squarely on the head. We had an inch high stack of paperwork to plow through, risk assessments, cleaning schedules etc. But this was not unexpected.
The testing of the table went well, we had excellent feedback, with most customers telling us that they feel very safe playing at our table. So we think that we have, for now, got it right.
So the next challenge for us is do we try and integrate more general gaming into the mix? Increased cafe sales would also be a good thing. Back to the backs of those fag packets.