The Romans had Bacchus, the Greeks had Dionysus and the Aztecs, well they had Centzon Tōtōchtin: a hard-drinking gang of 400 rabbit gods.
The bunnies haven’t had many prayers sent their way in recent years but, 2020 being what it is, a tequila bar in Nottingham, England, is trying to change that – and rescue its business at the same time.
England left its second national lockdown on December 2 and entered a system of tiered restrictions. Nottingham falls into the highest-risk Tier 3 category, which mandates that hospitality venues remain closed, other than for delivery and takeaway.
The newly christened Church of 400 Rabbits (formerly 400 Rabbits) is an Aztec-themed bar with an extensive tequila menu and a pending application to Nottingham’s registrar general to become a place of worship.
The reason this five-year-old establishment is now hoping to mix spirituality with spirits is that it’s spotted a loophole in England’s Covid-19 rules which means that, if you’re a place of worship, then people from the same household or bubble can enter your premises.
Having posted off an application to certify a place of meeting for religious worship (under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855), the bar is now seeking congregants through its website.
Becoming a Bunny Believer is free (and gets you a certificate), while a £10 ($13) contribution means you’re ordained as a Reverend of the Righteous Rabbits, with a complimentary T-shirt as your official robes.
Owner James Aspell isn’t hopeful that Nottingham’s powers-that-be will look beneficently on his bar’s application, but says it’s a tongue-in-cheek effort “to shine a light on the ridiculousness of the government’s new tier system and how contradictory the rules are.”
“It’s been really tough,” he says, arguing that: “the government insist on these restrictions” but then “the financial support isn’t there.”
“Even if we moved down into Tier 2 we wouldn’t be able to open without serving a substantial meal,” he adds, pointing to “the whole Scotch egg fiasco” which has played out in UK media this week.
A Scotch egg, for the uninitiated, is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and breadcrumbs, and a beloved institution that’s as British as queuing and complaining about the weather. After much debate, it’s now been declared a substantial meal by UK cabinet minister Michael Gove, after he controversially described it as a starter.
A pub in Brighton called the Caxton Arms is trying some loophole trickery of its own, by serving a beer named Substantial Meal in an attempt to bypass Tier 2 restrictions/get some press attention just like this.
And 400 Rabbits isn’t the first business to try the “place of worship” trick either – last month Poland’s Atlantic Squash and Fitness Club rebranded itself as the Church of the Healthy Body in a similar effort to keep open.
Aspell, meanwhile, says that the 400 Rabbits congregation is multiplying like, well, rabbits, with worshipers signing up all the way from Kazakhstan to New Zealand.
And in an admirable display of charity, as befitting a spiritual institution, all proceeds are being donated to Emmanuel House Support Centre Winter Appeal, a Nottingham homeless charity.