Alnwick businesses deliver 'bittersweet' verdict on Government's roadmap to reopening
Alnwick businesses have cautiously welcomed the Government’s roadmap to reopening after lockdown.
Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “The general consensus is that it’s a bit bittersweet.
"We wish it could be sooner but we’re thrilled that there is a real roadmap that looks do-able and it looks like there is an end in sight.
"But at the same time, we’re devastated for the hospitality businesses which are missing Easter and the spring bank holiday.
"The bars, restaurants and cafes are very important to the overall local economy and they’re going to miss two key trading times.”
She is now waiting to see what Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s unveils in the Budget on March 3.
“There need to be strong support packages for businesses to get through the interim period,” she said.
But Lisa, who owns menswear shop Hotspur 1364, is delighted that planning can start for weddings which make up around 70% of her business.
Weddings with up to 15 guests will be allowed from April 12, with up to 30 guests from May 17 and without limits from June 21.
"A lot of our weddings work takes place six months in advance so we’ve got to see what we can work out but I’m pleased that we’ve got those dates to work towards,” she said.
Personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons are also set to open from April 12.
Kirsty Sample, who runs Capella hair salon on Narrowgate, has been bombarded with calls and messages from clients eager to book an appointment.
"We have been inundated with messages for appointments but we’re waiting until Boris (Johnson) gives us a definite date before we contact our clients,” she said.
“April 12 is sooner than I expected. I don’t want to get my hopes up as the date could be put back like what happened in the first lockdown.”
In the meantime, she is preparing to move the business across the road into Victoria’s Salon as her lease ends this summer.
"It makes sense financially after the year it’s been,” said Kirsty.
Publican Jackie McDougall, landlady at The Blue Bell Inn, is cautiously optimistic about being able to reopen outdoors from April 12 and indoors from May 17.
"I think that’s great news for everybody, although more details are needed on how it is going to work in practice,” she said.
"We have a beer garden and can operate table service but how is it it going to be policed, will we be able to keep the toilets open?
"I’m not sure how many April days we’ll have when it’s nice to sit out either so there’s also the financial consideration.”
However, she expects the town and wider county to enjoy a boom summer as lockdown restrictions are eased.
"I honestly think Northumberland will do very well,” she predicted. “People are going to be too scared to go abroad so I think business at holiday homes, caravan parks, B&Bs and hotels will go through the roof. People are desperate for things to reopen.”