'It is amazing to be open again, it has been a long time coming.': Lancashire's leisure and entertainment venues reopen doors after months of closure
Cinemas, indoor sports and leisure centres and hotels are just some of the businesses that were able to safely reopen today, May 17.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for a range of businesses to finally reopen their doors inside to customers today as part of the roadmap out of lockdown.
As well as the long-awaited opening of hospitality venues, other businesses such as entertainment venues, leisure centres and play areas were also permitted to open today following months of closure.
For a Monday morning, Director of Jollie's Barn soft play centre, Mere Brow, Laura Brooks admitted she was pleased with the turnout and people's respect for the guidelines.
Speaking to the Post today, Laura said: "It is amazing to be open today, it's been a long time coming. It has been a bit daunting as it felt like we were closed for way longer than the last times we had to shut.
"There has been a great response so far, and for a Monday morning, we have had a full turnout from people. They are just so ready to get out and they are thankful that we have a clean space for them to play in.
"A lot of children have been overwhelmed because they haven't seen this many people for a long time, and some haven't ever experienced soft play so for them being able to reopen again is a massive thing.
"We are making people aware that this virus is still around with signs around the centre because we are not out of the woods just yet and we have to pull together as a business to make sure it stays that way.
"We are encouraging people to be safe and sensible when they visit us and we have had a lot of respect for those rules so far. All I can ask is that people are kind to businesses and follow the rules."
Preston's Red Rose Bowl reopened with rigorous changes in place to keep customers extra-safe. And for some, it hasn’t come a moment too soon, with the venue's bills mounting and overdrafts stretched to the limit.
At the centre on Greenbank Street, Preston, staff have now returned from furlough and can welcome customers indoors again as the third phase of returning to normality commences.
Manager Mark Berry said: "We are remaining apprehensive of course because there have been so many lockdowns and it has been such a challenging year, but with the vaccine rollout we hope this is it now and we are able to finally stay open.
"We have made a lot of investments to the centre including new kitchens, a dining area and fish and chop bar which we hope will do really well now we have reopened.
"People are thrilled to be coming back out and enjoying the venue, we are looking after our local people and giving them somewhere affordable to get out the house and enjoy themselves after lockdown.
"Everybody is glad to be back and returning to normal again, a lot of our staff haven't been working for so long so it is great to have them back again too."
Children's indoor play areas are also permitted to open up again, giving many parents across the country some much-needed respite following a challenging year of homeschooling.
And among leisure centres was the new Jump Maniax centre, Mercer Street, which was today officially opened by Coun. David Borrow, Mayor of Preston.
Manager Martin Bamber said: "The customers have been really excited about coming back into places like this and getting out doing fun activities with family and friends.
"Everyone has been in lockdown for so long and it has been incredibly difficult, so having an environment like this where they can bounce around and have fun makes people feel like we are heading back to some sense of normality.
"There has been an incredible public response so far and everyone has been so enthusiastic about coming back, including our staff who have had a year off work and can't wait to get going again.
"We have a mask-on policy for all our customers along with signs around the centre and hand sanitising stations. Our staff are also cleaning the inflatables every day thoroughly to keep people safe."
People can take a trip to the cinemas again, as the VUE at Preston's Capitol Centre reopened to film lovers who had previously booked online.
>>> WATCH VIDEO: Preston's Vue cinema opens up again as manager Graham talks through the changesManager Graham Royston said: "Customers can expect the big screen experience to be as magical as ever, but of course as safe as possible too, with physically distanced seating aided by developments in online booking, enhanced cleaning, reduced touchpoints throughout our venues, enhanced ventilation systems, and staff in PPE.
"Local response has been very positive, we knew the demand is there, helped by the incredible line-up of films and event cinema we have coming up."
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