How to open your own virtual pub

I can count the number of pints I’ve pulled on one hand, but, last week, I opened a pub, writes Alex Watson.

Lucky for me (considering the government guidance that was announced moments after I threw the doors wide on opening night) my bar doesn’t have staff who I’m now worrying about, or stock that’s going to go to waste.

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It doesn’t even have doors, actually. It’s a virtual pub - and business is booming.

Do you fancy opening up your own virtual pub? Step inside 'The Winnie' to learn more.


My workmates and I - like so many others - have been banished to our sofas, spare rooms and dining room tables for the foreseeable future.

We, like you, had fielded a hell of a week by the time we got to Friday.

With the option of going to a bricks and mortar boozer off the table, the idea for the virtual pub was born.

All I needed was a strong concept - a name, and a little bit of imagination.

Inspired by Edgar Wright’s zombie film, Shaun of the Dead, the team settled on The Winchester.

In the movie, Simon Pegg’s character, Shaun, repeatedly expresses his desire to go to his local of the same name, “have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over.”

How it works

I used Google Hangouts (a free service for anyone with a Google account) to invite my colleagues to a video call - 5pm ‘til late.

Though we’re all used to speaking on video calls during office hours, I inwardly cringed at the idea of doing it for fun, and I worried my workmates would do the same.

Like anyone opening a pub, I suppose, I worried that no one would come.

And, yet, they were excited about the idea - and, more importantly, they showed up.

At five on the dot, they began to file through the imaginary door, while I polished invisible glasses behind the non-existent bar.

Half an hour later, drinks and conversation were flowing. We all wanted to know what the others were drinking. We greeted each new arrival with a cheer. We cracked in-jokes and teased each other fondly.

Another round?

It was just like being in the real pub after a hard work week, except we got to see colleagues who usually can’t make it on nights out because they need to be at home for their kids.

We got to meet their kids - no age restrictions at The Winchester. We got to meet their other halves, who we’ve heard so much about.

Three joyously rowdy hours later, I called last orders and received complaints and some gentle abuse - just like a real pub landlord.

The Winchester (or ‘The Winnie’, as we’re now affectionately calling it) will be open again this Friday night, and every Friday night, as long as we need it to be.

My workmates and I have been talking about it all week. We’re planning a quiz. It’s going to be a busy one.

I’d better stock up on imaginary crisps and pork scratchings.