Landlords and restaurant owners in Stamford, Rutland and Bourne prepare to reopen on April 12
In a little over a week many pubs will be back open and serving customers a long-awaited pint or favourite tipple.
Under the Prime Minister’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown drinkers will be allowed to sit in beer gardens from Monday, April 12.
The announcement, made at the end of February, has sparked a flurry of landlord activity as premises are prepared and patios washed down ready to welcome people back.
Customers of The Crown Hotel in Stamford, part of the Knead Pubs chain, will notice a new addition to the outside area - an ‘engine shed’ marquee has been put up.
Sophia Thurlby of Knead Pubs said: “I think everyone can’t wait to do something.
“We have all been stuck in our homes, cooking and sitting in the same place.
“People are excited to be able to go out somewhere different and we feel the same way.”
Knead’s other premises - Smith’s of Bourne and the Tobie Norris in Stamford - will be opening on April 15, while The Lord Nelson in Oakham opens on April 29. The Jubilee Garage in Bourne and Paten and Co just off Red Lion Square Stamford will remain closed until May 17, when ‘indoor socialising’ is expected to be allowed again.
There will be an online booking system for all the premises at www.kneadpubs.co.uk.
While Paten and Co is closed people will be able to use the area outside as a place to meet and sit.
The Golden Fleece in Sheep Market, Stamford has enlarged its outside space at the front of the pub to accommodate 40 people.
Landlord Michael Purvis said he and his wife Teresa cater for a clientèle that wants to sit and relax with a quiet drink and that seems a popular option for people.
“Nearly all our tables are booked up at the weekend and during the week,” he added.
Orbis in Oakham has also been flooded with bookings since it announced it would have tables outside from April 12.
Owner Jonathan Spencer said: “I’m quite optimistic but I think there is uncertainty - no one knows what the weather will be like.
“I’m certain the first few weeks will be very busy but people might go back to ordering takeaways and drinking at home.
“When we have done things a certain way for so many days they become habitual; 25 years ago people used to finish work and go straight to the pub.
“Now, especially after lockdown, people behave differently.”
Jonathan, who also owns Bill’s Bar - which will reopen when indoor socialising is allowed - believes that the next stage of the roadmap is a ‘light at the tunnel’ for the hospitality industry.
“I can’t see us going back into lockdown,” said Jonathan. “When we first reopened I knew we would; I did the research and I knew the second wave was coming. I think, when we open again this time, that’s it. We will be allowed to stay open. It’s positive.”
A Government review is looking into whether people should have to show ‘vaccination passports’ to get in to pubs and nightclubs.
Jonathan said: “It’s something I don’t think will come to fruition. I can’t see it being anybody’s job to stand on the door and not only to ‘track and trace’ but to check people have had the vaccine. It would be like going on a flight from an airport.”
Mark Symes, owner of the Exeter Arms in Barrowden, said allowing in only people who are vaccinated could discriminate against younger people who are still waiting for their jabs.
“It’s not fair to discriminate,” he concludes.
An outside bar and kitchen has been installed at the Exeter Arms in preparation for reopening.But, knowing what English weather can have in store, Mark is urging people to check the pub website before turning up.
“Once you get to 7pm at this time of year the temperature drops rapidly. You can’t really sit eating a meal in the freezing cold;it’s just not enjoyable,” he said, adding that even though they have a huge outdoor area, they had debated staying closed until people are able to sit inside.
For premises with little or no outdoor space, that problem has been decided for them.
The Crown in Uppingham is among businesses unable to reopen because it has only limited outside space.
Landlady Laura Totten said: “We only have a handful of benches and my concern is, because it is a public right of way, I would have to police behaviour out there and that is not what I’m in the trade for.”
She added: “There is pressure to open as soon as possible because customers want to come back, but for those in the business there is a lot of trepidation and anxiety. None of us can afford to waste another penny on stock or invest in something that is not going to be used again.”
With most foreign holidays off the cards, some businesses could benefit from ‘staycation’ trade.
Ben Jones, owner of the Olive Branch in Clipsham, said: “We have bedrooms booked for May because lots of people want to visit the countryside for some fresh air. The Government talked about hands, face, space and now fresh air.
“I think this will be a great boost for village pubs, provided they have space and can afford the staff to do it.”
The Stag and Hounds in Burrough-on-the-Hill will be swapping its usual menu for a barbecue when it reopens for outside dining.
Owner Dom Clarke said: “People love being out, seeing each other and having a good time. I think it will be lovely to see everyone and I’m looking forward to the pub being full of laughter and life.”
Michael Prescott, head chef at The Griffin Inn in Irnham, said: "We've had to adapt and get used to it which pushes you as a chef to find different ways to provide the service people still want and give good options."
The 10pm curfew and rule on ordering a substantial meal have been abolished at pubs but customers must order, eat and drink while seated at a table and wear masks if they are not sitting down. They must also follow either the ‘rule of six’ - a group of three or more households should not be more than six people - or be no more than two households together.