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Back to business for bars, pubs and restaurants

Bars, pubs and restaurants were able to open their doors to customers for the first time in months on Saturday – with strict social distancing measures in place.

The hospitality industry re-opened with new measures in place to ensure people could enjoy being social without spreading COVID-19.

There were fears that the reopening of the sector after so long would lead to large crowds, but it seems the overcast and showery weather might have put paid to that in some of the area’s pubs.

Proprietor of The Pinkneys Arms, James Thornhill welcomed 180 customers on Saturday and said, ‘if it had been extremely hot and sunny, we might have been busier’.

“I was a little concerned it could have been busy and things could have got out of hand, but they didn’t,” he said.

“It was very calm, and we just had a steady flow of guests all day, and people were happy to be out, but relaxed and well behaved.”

In an attempt to keep the spread of coronavirus at bay the pub, in Lee Lane, is only opening its outdoor area, where customers can enjoy a pizza.

It is hoped the pub’s restaurant will be able to open soon, but for now the inside is only open on Sundays to seat limited Sunday roast bookings, with a 1.5metre distance between tables.

James said the level of trade since Saturday has been ‘superb’ and back to ‘pre-COVID levels’.

“I think the test will come in several weeks’ time,” he said.

“Obviously people are keen to get back, so we’re going to have a busy period now for a week or two, hopefully trade continues at a steady level in the weeks and months going forward.

“That’s the concern, if it gradually dies down.”

He added: “We’ll see, the early signs are very promising and yes, of course it’s a relief to be busy and to be trading again after such a difficult period.”

Another pub operating outside for the foreseeable future is The Bounty in Cockmarsh, Bourne End, which also experienced a bumper trade on Saturday.

“It was comparable if not busier than we’d normally be on a day with the weather the same,” said its manager, Damian Wright.

Damian also believes it would have been busier had the weather been better but said all 25 benches were full and ‘it was brilliant’ to be open again, with customers in agreement.

“So many people, as soon as they sipped some of the draft beer, said it’s like a ‘piece of heaven’.

“I think it’s quite psychological because it’s not a great deal different to a can, but just the fact that they’re having a draft beer is pleasing for most.”

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