Preston hoping to kick start economic revival as pubs and restaurants reopen

Business chiefs hope that this weekend’s reopening of much of the hospitality sector will mark a turning point in Preston’s fight back against the devastation caused by coronavirus.
Fishergate, Preston, before the coronavirus outbreakFishergate, Preston, before the coronavirus outbreak
Fishergate, Preston, before the coronavirus outbreak

Pubs, restaurants and other outlets can reopen from today (Saturday) after three months of earning little or no income.

And although it appears that some will wait for a “soft” reopening, the tills will be ringing in many pubs and restaurants for the first time since March.

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Mark Whittle, manager of Preston City Centre Business Improvement District, said some venues were already fully booked up.

He said: “It is pleasing that much of the leisure sector has the opportunity to return and we trust operators will do it safely.

“Some venues have taken the decision to wait a short while before re-opening, but the majority of venues that are able to open plan to do so this weekend or very shortly after.

“We have noted that a few venues, accepting customers that pre-book only, have already sold out all available time slots – which clearly shows there is an appetite for customers to return.

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“Like many sectors, leisure has been incredibly well hit by the pandemic, even with government support, it’s going to take them some time to recover.

“Preston’s award-winning nightlife stands by ready to kick start again, but with a few noticeable changes for customer safety.”

Figures show that Preston city centre footfall from June 15 to 21 (week on week) was 107 per cent up.

But it was 59 per cent down compared to the same period in 2019.

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The BID has been working with city centre venues and police licensing officers since guidance was issued on the safe reopening of pubs, bars and restaurants.

Mr Whittle said: “We have discussed at length good practices and procedures in order to ensure businesses can trade safely and responsibly.

“The way we enjoy a pint or a meal out will feel different for a while, but the measures venues are putting in place are there to protect people.

“We would ask people visiting to enjoy themselves but to follow the measures and guidance that bars and restaurants have introduced for their safety.

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“Many places are operating a booking system, so it’s advisable to check, or book, before you visit this weekend. We have put together an information page: which provides customers with further information on what to do before visiting and whilst here”.

While many can’t wait for the signal to reopen, Preston city centre pub the Guild Ale House is among those who say it will wait, describing the Saturday reopening date as “bonkers”.

Old Nell’s Tavern at Bilsborrow agreed, saying on social media that reopening on a Saturday was “an accident waiting to happen”.

The venue tweeted: “ I can see the headlines now, ‘Armageddon’.

“Soft opening Monday for us.”

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Lancashire police have urged drinkers to behave responsibly.

Lancs Police tweeted: “If you’re braving the rain to head out, follow the rules of the pub, pace yourself & drink safely.

“Do the right thing by keeping a safe distance - we’ve come too far to spoil the great work done controlling the spread of Covid19."