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Called to the bar

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Wanted to do a blog post as we have been overwhelmed by the article that one of our members wrote about the Tavern. Tracey Bearton used to be the editor of Greetings Today magazien and knows Neil from the days he used to write a monthly column for the magazine. This article is such a nice piece and so we wanted to add it to the site so we have it for posterity.

Lockdown landlords build 39,000-strong virtual community across the globe

AS PUBS and bars reopen across the country, landlords Neil Greenwood and Lorraine Robinson are looking forward to slowing down after serving 39,000 patrons for four months.

For the Oldham-based best friends have spent the whole of lockdown running the Virtual Tavern, a Facebook group they set up to keep the pub fun going online just two days after the UK went into hibernation.

And, with everything from quiz nights and live acts and DJ sessions to bingo and comedy, the group has grown from friends and friends of friends into a safe, supportive, fun and helpful community with 39,147 members – and counting – in 76 countries and territories across almost every corner of the globe.

“Lockdown for us has been filled with nothing but positivity and amazing experiences,” independent travel consultant Lorraine said, “and it’s all been down to the Tavern and the wonderful community that has been created. We can’t believe how well it’s taken off – and gone global!

“Me and Neil just put a quiz together initially, it went out live on the first Wednesday night and it’s just grown from there. The whole project is about escapism, support and positivity during these difficult times.

“In the beginning we both talked about whether it’s possible to create a positive place where people feel safe to speak, supported if they needed it and can have a really good laugh. We think as a collective we’ve managed it thanks to the wonderful members and their passion for the Tavern.”

The daft pair’s rapport and sense of fun shines through their posts, live sessions and TikTok videos with so many comments from Tavern members saying they’d be a great addition to Gogglebox that it’s become a running joke – “you never know, we’d definitely be up for it!” laughed Neil.

They’ve built up to a 17-strong team of administrators and moderators which includes Neil’s mum Carole and have a website with an official logo and range of Virtual Tavern merchandise plus a video (

Former DJ Neil, now a freelance greetings and gift sales agent and Forever Living products distributor, added: “Although our live quizzes will be taking a break, the Tavern is not going anywhere and remains the same fun and inclusive place it has grown to be, just with fewer live activities for the time being.

“It’s been great fun and a learning curve as neither Lorraine nor I were very tech-minded so we very quickly had to get on board with new technologies – we now feel like mini experts in Zoom, Kahoot, live streaming, TikTok videos, moderating posts and so on.

“And it’s been a great opportunity to provide a platform for performing artists to showcase their talents – from the more experienced to complete newbies we’ve had so many who have taken the plunge and performed live to a large audience.

“The biggest thing we’ve learned though, is what a wonderful and supportive town we live in here in Oldham. Through our business experience and contacts we’ve had an outpouring of support from local firms from sponsoring quizzes, donating prizes, exposure through our local twitter network #OldhamHour and just general messages of support, people in the area have been a key factor in the success of The Virtual Tavern.”

Set up as a safe space, the Tavern’s rules include no swearing, football, religion, politics, hate speech or bullying and negative Covid-19 posts.

Lorraine and Neil are proudest of the way members support each other with many coming into the Tavern group when they’ve been struggling with isolation and mental health difficulties, seeking advice and help for domestic difficulties, or they’re simply down over missing loved ones.

There have been birth, death and divorce announcements – and the separate Virtual Singles Lounge is the place to go for dating.

“The Taverners are great at putting a virtual arm around each other,” Lorraine said, “and we already have a budding romance thank to the Singles Lounge so we’re really hoping everyone in the Tavern will shortly need to buy a new hat!”

Among the big birthday celebrations marked was Lorraine’s 40th in June, while Neil’s 48th in May saw Coronation Street star Shane Ward pop in for a virtual pint and to wish the landlord many happy returns.

Neil said: “It just shows attitudes are contagious. If you’re surrounded by positive people you can’t help but want to join in. The problem with the world is it’s too easy to be negative and then people feel the need to follow suit. This group has shown me just how much people are there for each other when it really matters.”

Happy Taverners include Brigitte Sinoneau who posted: “My friend Jane Peet from across the ocean (I'm in Canada) invited me to join this Virtual Tavern. It’s the best thing I ever did. I've made some new friends that I hope to stay friends with for a long time. Talking to you all has helped me (and others I'm sure) get through this lockdown. Every day I looked forward to reading all of your posts. Some were funny, some were sad, but always they were friendly – if only life could always be that way!”

Morag Henderson from Scotland wrote: “This tavern has been as good as the NHS for us all here, you’ve kept us all sane and probably saved people from depression.”

In Dubai Zurah Woods posted: “It has been such a positive group with fantastic people lifting each other through everything and strangers showing compassion for others. It has been a life saver.”

from Sunderland said: “Thank you both, the Wednesday and Thursday quizzes have been our family time that we always come together for, it made our lockdown easier,” and Peter Johansen from Devon added: “If not for your foresight lockdown would have been abysmal, you’re both assured your place in heaven.”

Lorraine said: “The team have worked tirelessly to bring entertainment to the Tavern. We’ve had a ball but now lockdown eases we’re having to give attention to our own businesses so we can get back to making a living so some things have to change.

“We can't wait to see what the future brings for this wonderful group. The team are still the same, the fabulous personalities we have within it and all the hard work we all do will remain to keep the group going.”




The majority of members are in the UK, followed by the US and Australia, other countries represented include Isle Of Man, Ireland, Spain, Jersey, Canada, Cyprus, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Germany, UAE, Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Mauritius, Sweden, Greece, Denmark, Hong Kong, Portugal, Belgium, India, Pakistan, Austria, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Philippines, Oman, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Turkey, Poland, Guernsey, Finland, Bulgaria, Qatar, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Argentina, Nigeria, Kuwait, Singapore, Thailand, Egypt, Tunisia, Hungary, Gibraltar, Fiji, Japan, Albania, Malta, Iceland, Malawi, Kenya, Iraq, Nepal, Ghana, Taiwan, Israel, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Bermuda, The Gambia, Uganda, Indonesia, Colombia, Cayman Islands, Algeria, Czech Republic, China, Peru, and Sri Lanka.


David Robinson from Manchester posted: “Absolutely love this place. You two have done an amazing job of creating a place that brings people together. I was just talking to a friend I made in here about how this group has helped with confidence in talking to people we don’t know. Thank you to everyone in here.”

Daniel Prince said: “Well done to the pair of you. I think a lot of people needed this and honestly think you should both be so proud of everything you have achieved.”

John 'mouse' Kennedy said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you guys and all the other lunatics on here, you have made this lockdown far more easier for folk to cope, long may it continue.”

Dawn Simm said: “Love being part of this group. It has kept me sane and thank you Neil, Lorraine and the team for all you have done for us all. You are amazing.”

Michael Grealis said: “As well as the jokes, banter, superb DJs and singers, there has been a lot of friendliness and compassion as well. I love it here. I think it has been a lot of comfort to some people who have had to isolate for around three months.”

Peter Johansen said: “Heartfelt thanks to you both, the posts on this site have, for the most part, been funny, informative, sad, happy, heartwarming, disappointing – but, overall, they’ve been a ray of sunshine through these past weeks. Thanks again. If not for your foresight lockdown would have been abysmal, you’re both assured your place in heaven.

Emma Palmer said: “I wonder if you realise you brought my family together from different parts of the world? England, Ireland and New Zealand. We haven't drank in the same pub together for years, so thank you for that.

Jane Riley said: This has been an amazing thing to do. Dropping in and out, having chats with other kind, warm, respectful and most often very funny people! The Tavern kept me sane through a very dark time when my sister was really sick on ICU and then welcomed her as a member when we finally got her home. Thanks to you both for your hard work and commitment. You have been amazing.”

Clair Musgrove said: “A huge thank you to Lorraine and Neil for giving us all the strength to get through the last three months, I'm sure there are a lot of us who would not have got through it.”

Carole Maye said: I for one have absolutely loved this group, it's been a God-send at times. I've met some amazing people on here and hope to remain friends. Thank you to all the staff of the Tavern for everything you do and all the bullshit that has come your way. I am undyingly grateful.”

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