Pubs, restaurants and cafes finally reopen INSIDE as lockdown restrictions ease
"Being able to have a pint indoors with family and friends has been such a long time coming."
Businesses across different sectors were able to finally welcome customers back indoors today, May 17, as part of the Government's third phase of the roadmap out of lockdown.
And hospitality bosses today spoke of their happiness in returning to some normality after months of closure and a turbulent 12 months brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bars, restaurants and cafes are just some of the businesses who can take full advantage of the change in guidance, along with indoor entertainment and attractions, hotels and indoor sports venues.
And in a make-shift fix, he has begun using shower curtains to separate his eight indoor tables to make sure customers are abiding by the social distancing guidelines.
He said: "It's great to be able to start letting people in again, especially when the weather isn't good. It feels like we are getting back to some normality again.
"I am more nervous about still telling people to sit down at their tables because after a drink, people want to socialise with one another. Last week, we were closed for four days because it was becoming so difficult to remind people to stay at their tables.
"I have put shower poles and curtains up because they are easy to move but work well in keeping people separated. We are working on booking systems and will keep offering table service because it works really well for us and stops people congregating at the bar.
"As exciting as it is, I think over the coming weeks people will still be apprehensive. I have only ever traded during Covid times so am hopeful that this is it now and the only was is up from here, and today is a great start."
Customers were fortunate in Preston today, as the rain held off for most of the day, where many people opted to sit outside and enjoy their food and drink but La Viva cafe bar, on Fishergate, was among those happy to see full tables both inside and out at lunchtime.
Manager Halic Eyrice said: "It is fantastic to be open again today, I can not describe how good it feels to be able to welcome our customers back in.
"We have been open outside for the last month, but the weather has been up and down all the way through so it has been difficult for us on some days and we haven't been as busy as usual.
"This past year has been very hard for us but we have always opened when we could and taken the risk. We have made investments in our cafe, we have decorated it and are excited to finally let our customers come in and see us again."
Fino Tapas, on Guildhall Street, also reopened indoors today, with new General Manager Alex Hull saying she was 'looking forward to the future'.
Customers are permitted to book tables of no more than six inside hospitality businesses, unless they are from two or less households when larger party numbers are allowed.
But diners must wear masks unless they are sat at their designated tables and are encouraged to use hand sanitisers upon entry.
Alex told the Post: "This has been very new to me, but we have been packed out pretty much every day outside which has been wonderful to see.
"Today so far is going really well. We have a good number of bookings for a Monday and are set to be busy this weekend which will be superb. It has been such a long time coming and have all waited so long to be able to have that pint indoors.
"The team are all raring to go and we are all excited to get used to this new way of working again. Customers have to wear masks when they are moving around the restaurant and are asked to fill out track and trace forms to make sure we are keeping people safe.
"Our team are very prepared and are regularly cleaning and we have hand sanitising stations all around the restaurant for our customers to use, as well as still offering people the chance to sit outside if they would prefer.
"I am so excited and optimistic for the future - I hope we can open fully on June 21 and people can get back to normal like pre-covid times. We want to be able to have parties, hugs and handshakes because that has been really missed this past year."
Pints and trays of shots were being served across the bar to happy customers at Wetherspoon's Twelve Tellers pub today, on Fishergate, who were pleased to be drinking indoors again.
Wetherspoon spokesperson Eddie Gershon said: "We are delighted the pub has reopened. Staff and customers have been away for the pub for a long time and the pub has been busy since opening time.
"The Twelve Tellers is an important part of Preston's social scene and its local economy, so we are thrilled that people are coming back out to support us now we are open again.
"All of the safety measures that have been in place since the pandemic started remain including test and trace, directional signs, hand sanitisers throughout and preferred payment through our app so customers don't have to leave their tables."
People also sat down to enjoy one of the many ales available at The Guild Ale House, Lancaster Road, along with BBC Radio 1's popular radio DJ and host Jordan North, who was spotted with friends.
The business has remain shut since the pandemic first hit last March, with lack of outside space meaning and the previous 'substantial meal' restrictions meaning the ale house was unable to open at any point during the difficult past year.
Owners Gary Quinn and Jane Briscoe spoke to the Post today about the difficulties of the past twelve months and their thoughts on the future.
Gary said: "The past year has been really difficult for us, we never thought it would ever last this long but we have managed to make it through and it is absolutely great to be back open again.
"We are really looking forward to June 21 when all restrictions are hopefully going to be lifted. I don't think we will have the same big boom that businesses had in April because people have got used to being out and socialising again with friends and family.
"We still face restrictions with the rule of six and face masks, and I think people will still be apprehensive until the last restrictions are lifted next month and I think there will be big parties and celebrations.
"Most of our regulars are older people, and for many of them, coming to us is the only chance they have to socialise with other people so the past year will have been very difficult. I think it is great that we are back open and we are looking forward to welcoming people back in again."
The final phase of the roadmap out of lockdown is due to come into force on June 21, when all social distancing guidelines are set to be abolished along with other Covid-19 restrictions and nightclubs can reopen safely.
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