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Photo of elderly man drinking a pint in a pub evokes loneliness of pandemic

The striking image of the man seated alone at a corner table with his Guinness and meal, along with a small clock, has gone viral.
/ Source: TODAY

A photo of an old man drinking a pint and having meal with a small clock on the table next to him has sparked a deep conversation about the coronavirus and its effects of isolation on the elderly. On Monday, McGinn's Hop House in Galway, Ireland posted a photo of an elderly gentleman, John Joe Quinn, on its Facebook page. The striking image of Quinn seated alone at a corner table with his Guinness and meal, along with a small clock, has since gone viral.

"A picture paints a thousand words - so sad this man can’t enjoy his few pints without having to worry about the time!!" commented one person, referring to the one-hour and 45-minute time limit on restaurant tables in Ireland.

Other restrictions in place since pubs reopened in Ireland during the pandemic include that those purchasing alcohol must order a "substantial meal" costing at least 9 euros (the equivalent of $10.60).

"My heart goes out to the older generation their living in fear on all levels ....let him enjoy his few pints," wrote another person.

"I admire him, he's got a nice window seat in a lovely pub in an area where he's clearly well known and appreciated," commented another person. "Yes, the fact he's got his clock with him to make sure he doesn't 'overstay' is sad but he's up, he's out and he's making it work! Hopefully if we can all follow the guidelines things will get easier for all of us!"

The pub owner, Fergus McGinn said that he posted the photo on Facebook, which has now gone viral, in order to highlight the role the pub plays in the community, particularly during the isolating time of coronavirus, reported the New York Times. He said that Mr. Quinn has been taken aback by his newfound fame and the many offers that poured in to buy him a meal or a pint.

He "wants to pay his own way," said McGinn of Quinn, who asked if he had enough time to enjoy a second pint. Quinn said he brought the clock with him not necessarily because of the table time limits but so that he could make it home in time to watch the evening news.

TODAY Food reached out to McGinn for comment but did not immediately hear back.

Quinn told the Irish Independent that although he enjoys being able to go out for a pint, that safety comes first. “Health is more important,” he told the newspaper. “People need to do what they are told. That’s as simple as that.”

Meanwhile, McGinn hopes that the photo of his customer will serve to remind people of the importance of the everyday act of enjoying a meal and a drink out in public.

“Taking that away from people, that social outlet for that generation, it could be detrimental and savage on their mental health,” said McGinn.

Pubs that don't serve food have been closed in Ireland since the start of the lockdown but are set to reopen Sept. 21.