Offbeat CBC News
Before everyone had cellphones, people went to bars and restaurants for conversation, but now it’s more common to see people staring at their phones rather than talking.
This behaviour bothered U.K. pub owner Steve Tyler so much that he decided to do something about it.
Tyler lined the walls of the Gin Tub, located in Hove, which is about 85 kilometres south of London, with copper mesh and tinfoil to block cellphone signals. It’s a system known as a Faraday cage, he told CBC Radio’s As It Happens.
“That’s released my customers from the burden of checking their phones every five minutes,” he told guest host Rachel Giese.
He wanted to restore the atmosphere that used to be a big part of bars and pubs, but has been lost.
“Silent people make no atmosphere,” Tyler said.
Return to Cheers
However, a quirky feature of the Gin Tub involves the good old-fashioned rotary phone, which Tyler installed on each table so his customers can call the bar for a drink or chat with someone at another table.
Cellphones also removed what he called the “Cheers effect,” a reference to the popular TV program from the 1980s, which had the catchphrase “where everybody knows your name.”
“[Now] no one knows your name because you’re on your phone,” Tyler said.
Removing the Wi-Fi has taken the bar back 25 years, he says.
“Twenty-five years ago you’d walk in the bar and be deafened by the noise of people talking, and now you walk in a bar and you’re deafened by background music because nobody’s talking.”
Tyler says even millennials enjoy the low-tech environment.
“What they’re appreciating is what we enjoyed when we were young. What pubs were, they were interactive and they were fun.”
He says the only complaint he’s received was from a customer upset she was still receiving a signal.
As for people worried about not being reachable if there’s an emergency, Tyler says they can leave the pub’s landline number with whoever needs it and the call can be sent to the table. But he’s not expecting this to be a regular thing.
“When did you ever receive an emergency phone call in a bar? You never did.”