Convinced that smartphones are ruining our social lives as well as the pub experience, the owner of a newly-opened bar in Brighton, England has decided to get people socializing the old-fashioned way by disabling their cellphone reception.
Instead of texting, checking emails or browsing the internet, patrons of the Gin Tub bar will have to pass the time by actually interacting with their friends, dates or even complete strangers. Owner Steve Tyler could have simply asked guests not to use their phones in his bar, but instead of banning them, he opted to disable them completely. The Gin Tub has a Faraday cage built into its ceiling, which makes getting a reception inside the venue impossible. He says it was the only exception in Britain’s 2006 Wireless Telegraphy Act that otherwise outlaws the use of signal blockers. So yes, it’s 100% legal.
“Mobile phones have killed pubs. When you go out socially, you don’t need social media,” Tyler says. “Rather than telling people they can’t use they phones we’ve basically disabled them.” He makes sure to clarify that the Faraday shield doesn’t jam phone signals, as that would be illegal. Instead the 19th-century device prevents the signal from getting inside.
Patrons are allowed to bring in and use phones at the Gin Tub, in fact, the place is full of them. Every table features an old-style rotary phone, and they are all connected through a landline. Customers can use these phones to call the bar for an extra round of drinks, to avoid clustering at the bar, or call another table and get a conversation going, under the condition that they buy their neighbors a drink.
“A lot of people go to bars and don’t even talk to their friends, let alone new people. I wanted people to interact with each other and not with people who aren’t in the room with them,” Tyler told VICE Munchies. “For me, it’s killing the social side of going out. They’re socializing with people that they’re not with, which they could do at home anyways. But we’re not going to let you.”
The Gin Tub opened on July 22, 2016, and judging by the online reviews, people are loving the vintage experience of actually talking to other human being face to face. “The interest has been enormous,” Steve Tyler says. “We’re really proud of what we’ve done.”
“Everyone talks to everyone in my bar. It’s like back to the old days of the British pub,” the pub owner boasts. “We do shared tables here. So, if you’re two people coming in, we’ll put you with another two. When your wife or partner goes to the toilet, you can’t insulate yourself from conversation by going on your phone; you have to talk to them.”
Although some people have a tough time coping with the inability to access online social media, Tyler says he has gotten no complaints about it. There was one complaint, but it was that someone actually got a signal. “I mean, we can’t stop everything,” he said.
Photos: The Gin Tub/Facebook