The Government’s roadmap to reopening indicates that pubs will be able to reopen from April 12 – but only with outdoor service.
With the vagaries of the Northumberland spring weather to consider, the Red Lion Inn at Milfield, near Wooler, has taken steps to ensure it can provide a warm welcome to customers.
Iain Burn, who runs the pub with his wife Claire, said: “It’s 12 months since the first lockdown so we’ve had a fair bit of time to consider what we can do to improve the facilities at the pub.
"It didn’t really have an outside area before. There was a little smoking shelter at the back and that was all that was there so one day I got my tape measure out and it started from there.”
They secured a Government grant and the result is a smart 40-seat outside area for eating and drinking, now complete with heaters and protection from the elements.
"It’ll still be a bit weather-dependent, even with the heaters, but we do plan to reopen outside on April 12,” said Iain.
"The decking area was done last summer but we’ve added two parasols for shelter and two large heaters for the colder months.”
In addition, a major refurbishment has been carried out inside to expand capacity for when customers are allowed back in.
“That’s all been done during the winter lockdown,” said Iain. “Before lockdown we had about 40 seats in the whole pub. Now we’ve got 30 in the bar and 40 in the dining area and 40 outside so we hope it will make a big difference for us.”
He is expected it to be another busy summer with staycations on the menu for many.
"We were only open for four months last year but the decking really proved its worth and was often full to capacity,” said Iain.
The pub has continued to offer takeaway meals throughout the pandemic, while Iain has also diversified to offer a portable bar service for weddings and other local events.