Concerns of business owners as pubs, restaurants and cafes prepare to open their doors
PUBLISHED: 19:04 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:01 06 July 2020
Saturday sees the big re-opening of UK pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes - and Sudbury is ready and waiting for the return of their customers.
After three-and-a-half months of being shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic the hospitality industry is getting ready for its comeback - with a mixture of delight and trepidation.
The Gainsborough pub on King Street has been in full preparation this week - busy trying to get everything in place for the safe return of their customers and looking forward to the social interaction that people have missed - but there are concerns about a possible new spike in Covid-19 cases.
Tenant Darren Hall has been working hard to ensure the pub is as socially safe as possible for his staff and his punters and has felt the pressure in recent days trying to implement all the new measures required, including the pub car park being turned in to a marquee garden seating area.
Opening at 6pm and with doormen to oversee the customers outside, the pub is taking bookings to keep track of numbers - through calling the pub or procured through a special app which customers can download via Facebook - and have received 30 requests so far.
Mr Hall said: “There will be procedures to follow as you enter, at the bar and to the toilets. We’re getting portaloos delivered for outside to avoid long queues inside to the toilets. We’ve also ordered paper towels for people to dry their hands on instead of using the air hand dryers which we have turned off.
“We’re sorting our table plans out to apply the social distancing guidelines. We’ve gone for two metres outside and roughly between one metre and one-and-a-half metres inside - but we’ll do two metres if we can.”
Staff will also be wearing face masks and visors and there will be face masks and disposable gloves for customers to purchase if they wish.
Mr Hall continued: “We want our customers to feel confident enough to come in.
“We won’t be serving food on our first weekend open as we need to do one thing at a time. It’s not about the money, it’s about getting everything right.
“But I am looking forward to seeing everyone and welcoming our customers back.”
Reflecting on his time during lockdown, Mr Hall said: “It’s been a struggle. It’s been hard but I’ve kept myself very busy. It’s been a good time to get things done.
“I’m really looking forward to re-opening but I am hesitant. But I’ve got a business to run and we’ve got to open.”
Bar manager Tom McAndrew said; “I’m slightly apprehensive. My biggest worry is that we’re taking all these measures but another pub down the road might take no measures to open and then their customers come in here.
“It was a massive struggle for the first couple of months not seeing anyone so I am looking forward to seeing our customers again.”
The Secret Garden restaurant on Friars Street has also been in full preparation mode in anticipation of re-opening - after having to close their cafe branch due to loss of income during the coronavirus crisis.
Business partners Stephane Chapotot and Alain Jacq spoke of their sadness at seeing their cafe close but have incorporated the basis of it into the restaurant branch instead and are ready to welcome back their diners.
They said: “We are officially re-opening on Monday July 6 because we don’t want to be rammed and have hundreds of people coming in all at once.
“We wanted to keep Saturday for our regulars so we are going to open up on July 4 and invite all the people who are really important to us who have helped us through this very hard time. And then Monday we will be open to the general public.”
The Secret Garden decided at the end of March to shut down the cafe side of the business because of financial losses and uncertainty over the future, and having re-grouped the two premises together are now hopeful for the future.
Mr Chapotot said: “It was a difficult decision to make. We had to let go of some of the staff which was very hard.”
With a one-way system put in place, spacious table settings inside and outside in the garden area and a perspex screen around the till area, the restaurant is ready for its customer to safely return.
“We are a social business, something that human beings need - we need to talk to each other, we need to have a laugh,” he said.
“The hospitality industry is important to people so I am very excited to be able to open again. I am concerned, as you can see by what has happened in Leicester.”
Customers will be asked to queue outside and wait to be seated before exiting out of the side door to avoid people clashing with each other.
Mr Chapotat and Mr Jacq said: “We’ve been here for a very long time and it gives us such a warm feeling to know that the community is behind us. It made us work even harder to ensure that we could re-open.
“We just want to say a big thank you, they’ve been very supportive and we are very much looking forward to opening again.”