On lockdown: Jo Last, bartender

Millie Milliken

Millie Milliken

22 April 2020

We virtually caught up with the Beaufort Bar at The Savoy's senior bartender Jo Last to talk The Booze Brain, the new 'normal' and Pimm's in a can

The government's decision to shut down bars, pubs and restaurants and the lockdown imposed on the UK population last month means that most hospitality professionals are now spending their time at home.

To understand how they're coping with the challenge we've launched a brand new series of interviews. For the fifth in this series, we virtually caught up with the Beaufort Bar's senior bartender Jo Last to chat The Booze Brain, the new 'normal' and Pimm's in a can.

What were the first few things you did as soon as the bar closed down?

The Beaufort Bar closed about six days before the government told everyone to close, some of the team had already gone back home (Italy, Spain), but the remainder did our closing stock take and deep clean.

The hotel was a ghost town, it was really strange walking through such an iconic building with no people inside. We went to the American Bar for a Martini as a team afterwards which was when it all hit us that we actually were closed. 

How quickly did you turn around The Booze Brain with Maxim Schulte and is it something you’d thought about doing before covid-19 hit?

Max put a post out on his Instagram (the day everything closed, I think) tagging a handful of brand ambassadors to see if they would be interested in doing some virtual training. It wasn’t pre-thought out, but we knew the industry would be forced apart and we wanted to provide something to engage and bring everyone together and that’s where The Booze Brain was born! 

What have been the best things you’ve seen other bartenders doing during the lockdown?

We will have to think of new ways to make people comfortable in bars again when we re-open

Jo Last

The variation of hobbies that people have outside bartending has been the best to see, most of the time we don’t have time to explore other creative outlets, so things such as cooking, exercising, and even stop-motion videos have been good to see. Also the amount of charity work, fundraising and mainly the fact we have pulled together as an industry to support each other and the UK at this time.

What have you missed the most?

At first, I think the rest and the break was welcome! But now, as many people will say I’m sure, the thing I’m starting to miss is interacting with people and travelling. 

How do you think it will be readjusting to normality (or at least a version of it)?

I think it will take a bit longer than expected to go back to ‘normal’, and what that might be, I don’t know. I think it will be different to before and we will have to think of new ways to make people comfortable in bars again when we re-open. A new style of hospitality. 

Have you bought any new kit which you didn’t have at home and have been experimenting with?

I think I’ve actually thrown out more things than I’ve bought in! I've started to use what’s around me more. The Booze Brain is keeping me busy for sure! 

What drinks have been getting you through lockdown?

Pimm's in a can. I don’t know what it is, but like the rest of the world, as soon as I see sun – even if it’s through a window – I crave Pimm's. That's probably not what you were expecting...

Keep up to date with The Booze Brain on its Facebook page.

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