'It's like Christmas day!'- pubs and hairdressers reopen after lockdown

Pubs, cafes and restaurants have been able to welcome customers again for the first time in nearly four months.

Saturday, 4th July 2020, 6:22 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th July 2020, 6:23 pm

Many were grateful for the chance to eat or drink out for the first time since March, although persistent showers perhaps persuaded some to stay at home for a little longer.

John Taylor, who was enjoying a drink with his family at The Red Lion in Alnmouth, said: “It’s a relief to be back after all this time.”

Jayne Beaumont said “It’s like Christmas Day,” as she enjoyed a drink with husband Rick at The Blue Bell Inn in Alnwick.

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Milly Bellotti, Charlotte Spedding, John Taylor and Helen Taylor socialising in the beer garden of The Red Lion in Alnmouth.

Rick added: “It's like seeing your extended family again.”

Publicans were also delighted to be trading again, although it was an anxious moment too as they seek to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to.

Scott Doherty, owner of The Black Swan in Alnwick, said: “It’s been three-and-a-half months but it seems a lot longer and we’re raring to go.

“We are expecting it to be relatively busy. I think a lot of people are excited that pubs are back open. Pubs are the heart of the community and people have been waiting a while for this day.

Pubs and hairdressers have reopened in the latest easing of lockdown measures.

“We’ve safeguarded it as much as we can so people feel safe when they come inside.”

Chris Hume, owner of The Tavern in Alnwick, added: "I'm glad it's been a slow start and I think the weather has probably helped.

“We're a small operation so we couldn't have opened if it was two metres. When the social distancing guidelines were relaxed to one metre plus it at least gave us a chance.

“We've removed a couple of tables and have safety precautions in place.

Pat Ewart pictured, right, with Capella hair salon staff Lauren Smith, Natalie Robinson and Kirsty Sample.

“I'm not too fearful of how it will be later.”

Jane and Mac McHugh, who have run the Red Lion in Alnmouth for 17 years, decided they would only reopen their beer garden for now given the difficulties of ensuring social distancing measures in a historic building.

Ben McHugh said: “I think people have felt really comfortable coming back to the beer garden with it being in the open and the covers have come in handy today with the rain.”

Jane said: "We've been really well supported by our locals who have broken us in gently.

Black Swan customer James Armstrong with owner Scott Doherty and manager Sophie Brown.

"It's been quite hard over the past four months but it gave us a chance to reflect on our business and we felt we had to go in a different direction so we're not doing food anymore."

Mac added: “It’s just wasn’t going to be cost effective to do the kitchen any more. It was a sad decision to take – and an emotional one – because the staff had been great.”

Jackie McDougall, landlady at the Blue Bell Inn in Alnwick, said: “It feels brilliant to be back.

“We’ve got some older people who drink in here and today one of the guys has come in and hasn’t had a drop of alcohol past his lips since the day of lockdown and he’s come in fighting fit and happy as Larry but he said the best thing about it was seeing his friends. The pint didn’t matter but the friendship and social interaction did.”

Some cafes have been doing takeaway trade in recent weeks but it was the first day back for David Hogg, who runs Olive Branch Cafe in Alnwick with his wife Tina.

He said: “It's been a great day. It's been busy with a lot of locals and some visitors since we opened so we can't complain. It's been worth the effort of getting new signage and protective screening in. Customers have said they feel very safe.”

Queues outside barber shops were a regular sight of the day as hairdressers reopened for business.

Chavez Pattinson was one of the first customers at Trotters barber shop in Alnwick.

He said: “I booked in a couple of weeks ago for a back and sides. My brother, Cyrus, did it occasionally during lockdown but I wanted it done properly.”

Owner Jordan Trotter said: “It’s been a bit strange being back but it’s the new normal and we’ve just got to get used to it.

Safety measures include a one-way system, hand washing, face masks, protective gowns and extra cleaning of tools.

At Capella hair salon, early customer Pat Ewart said: “I hadn't had it done in four months so I was really pleased to get an appointment on the first day back.”

It was also an important day for the wider retail economy given the importance of the hospitality sector to Northumberland.

Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “The pubs, restaurants and cafes are key to the success of Alnwick so it's really positive to see them up and running again."

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