Bar Owner Starts Virtual Pub, Attracts 14K Global Patrons
From England to Australia, people are bellying up to stay connected during the Covid-19 crisis.
When Jo Bowtell had to close the neighborhood tavern she runs because of the coronavirus, she wanted a way to keep her patrons connected.
The 40-year-old decided to set up a "virtual pub" on Facebook, where her customers could keep in touch and share drinks together online.
Bowtell has been running The Noel Arms, a dog-friendly pub in Melton, Mowbray, UK, for several years. She started The Virtual Pub Facebook page to keep her regulars entertained during the closure, but she quickly realized that a lot of other people were looking for a place to share a pint.
Botwell ran The Noel's Arms in the UK for several years before starting The Virtual Pub. The Virtual Pub/Facebook
"It started as just a way for locals in Melton Mowbray who knew the pub to keep in touch," Bowtell told the Good News Network. "Now, I've got people in Hawaii tuning in to watch a DJ set and people stranded in Italy watching comedy nights with their mum in Britain."
After hosting the group for only a week, TVP has over 14,000 members from countries all over the world. Bowtell, who's also a mother of two, knew she couldn't keep up with the group on her own, so she hired a virtual "bar staff" to help run the page. She even added a few moderators, or "bouncers," to keep the behavior of her members in check.
The Virtual Pub quickly attracted over 14K members from all over the world. The Virtual Pub/Facebook
Since starting the group, Bowtell has hosted live music, quizzes, DJ sets, open mics and comedy nights. Members can tune in live or catch the recorded performances later, all while enjoying their beverage of choice in their own homes. And since the pub is open at all hours, Bowtell's staff helps keep things running around the clock.
"I have to delegate jobs to my team," she said. "I've had to ask a friend in Australia to moderate the page throughout the night to make sure there's entertainment for patrons 24/7."
Here's just one of the many performances you can watch online at The Virtual Pub.
Some members of the virtual pub share selfies and post photos of what they're drinking. Others come to share their quarantine experiences and vent their frustrations. In other words, it's just like a normal bar – just with a lot more people.
Bowtell and her "bar staff" give tutorials to new members on how to best navigate the group. The Virtual Pub/Facebook
But, according to Bowtell, that's what makes the group so successful. It gives a sense of community, something that's especially important during times of tragedy.
"In such bleak times, it is important to find a positive—and with all the bad news going around I think it really puts a smile on people's faces," she said.
What an amazing idea to lift peoples' spirits during a stressful time. Hopefully people will be "cheers-ing" at The Virtual Pub long after the coronavirus is gone.
People share selfies and post photos of themselves "cheers-ing" to the page. The Virtual Pub/Facebook