Northumberland all set to safely reopen for summer season after months of lockdown

Pubs, restaurants, visitor attractions, accommodation providers and hairdressers are getting ready to welcome customers back for the first time in 15 weeks.

Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 6:00 am

The long lockdown has been keenly felt in Northumberland where there is such a heavy reliance on visitors to prop up the local economy.

Many businesses now hope they will benefit from some semblance of a summer season, although the fear of a second wave of coronavirus cases remains.

Harvest Harris-Jones, chairman of the North Northumberland Tourism Association, said: “Tourism businesses here are delighted to be reopening their doors to welcome visitors again.

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Gavin Penn of Alnwick Chamber of Trade is helping to promote Independents Day on July 4.

“As hosts we are confident that we are all ready to go and will provide a safe place for people to dream, explore and discover what Northumberland has to offer.”

Publicans are also looking forward to opening their doors from Saturday, July 4 – although social distancing measures will have an impact.

“I’m really looking forward to having my regulars back,” said Jackie McDougall, landlady at the Blue Bell Inn in Alnwick.

But Michael Dawson at the Craster Arms in Beadnell added: “As a business we rely on summer trade and it’s not going to be possible to get the numbers in that we ordinarily would.”

Alnwick's Independents Day poster.

Alnwick Chamber of Trade chairman Lisa Aynsley hopes the second phase of reopening will go as smoothly as the first phase on June 15.

Lisa Aynsley, who owns menswear shop Hotspur 1364, said: “It's great to see Alnwick moving into the second phase of reopening the town.

“All of us non-essential retailers are very excited to see our neighbouring hairdressers, pubs, cafes and restaurants opening their doors on Saturday.

“Beauticians and gyms, hang in there - hopefully it won’t be too long for you!”

Gavin Penn.

Alnwick traders have also launched an ‘Independents Day’ social media campaign promoting the town’s eclectic mix of businesses to mark the occasion.

Gavin Penn, who owns Penn Gallery, said: “The independents are the heart and soul of the town and we thought July 4 was an ideal time to push the Independents Day message.”

Northumberland County Council, working with town and parish councils and local businesses, has been putting safeguards in place to ensure public safety.

However, it is also mindful of the need to support local businesses.

Jackie McDougall, landlady at the Blue Bell Inn, Alnwick.

“The council will not be heavy handed,” said Coun Gordon Castle, member for Alnwick, who has helped ensure cafes can put out tables and chairs without contravening policy.

“The council is working closely with businesses and local groups to get things going again, but I think that hairdressers will experience the biggest customer surge in generations - or they should!”

It has certainly been a busy period for Kirsty Sample, managing director at Capella hair salon in Alnwick.

“It’s been non-stop getting in touch with all our customers to sort out appointments and answering messages from people looking for a haircut,” she said. “I’m fully booked until the end of this month.”

Safety measures she has introduced include sanitising stations, temperature checks, added space between chairs and PPE visors for staff.

Visitor attractions preparing to reopen on July 4 include Dunstanburgh Castle, Housesteads and Chesters Roman Fort, Belsay Hall, Corbridge Roman Town, Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland Country Zoo and Heatherslaw Light Railway. Bamburgh Castle will reopen on July 6.

Dunstanburgh Castle.

The Northumberland Gazette is campaigning for people to #SupportLocal and help local businesses to get over the lockdown.

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