08:00PM, Wednesday 07 April 2021
Chris Peverell, general manager of The Belgian Arms, Holyport
Publicans and restaurateurs have said they ‘can’t wait’ to get back in the saddle and start hosting guests again from April 12.
From this date, visitors will be allowed to sit in a group of six per table outdoors.
As before, customers will not be able to stand in groups outside but must be sat at a table and cannot go to the counter to order.
Among the eateries planning to reopen next week, Norden Farm’s outdoor terrace is set to welcome visitors back from Friday, April 16.
The Cafe Bar will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 12–9.30pm, increasing to three days a week when the venue can reopen its doors for live events.
Flavio’s Cafe Bar and Restaurant on the high street currently has about 12 outdoor tables. Owner Flavio Pantaleao has missed talking to his customers and ‘cannot wait’ to reopen.
Unlike many venues, Flavio’s will not be offering bookings.
“If I take bookings at 9am, I have to get the table ready at 8.30. I will lose a lot of business,” he said.
“My regular customers who usually sit outside will not be able to get a table. It’s very unfair for them.”
For pubs, gone is the 10pm or 11pm curfew and the ‘substantial meals’ rule, allowing customers to head out just for a drink come the 12th.
Chris Peverell, general manager of The Belgian Arms in Holyport, said this is a ‘sigh of relief’ for customers just looking to buy a pint.
“To say we’re excited to reopen is an understatement,” he said.
“We spend all our time with people, entertaining and hosting, it’s been very strange not to be able to do that.”
The Belgian Arms is ready to welcome occupants to 40 tables under heated cover in its dining terrace – by prebooking only – plus up to another 30-40 people at its beer garden picnic tables.
Still operating at reduced staff, the pub has introduced an online order-and-pay platform to save time – even so, customers will have to slightly change their expectations, Chris said.
A complication of reopening has been publicans unsure where they stand on the issue of the rule of six.
To make things easier for larger families, two households of any size can meet.
However, pubs are unsure who is liable to ensure that members of the group come from just two households.
“The only way we could really check is to ID people on the door – as a business that wants to be open and welcoming, that’s hard for us to navigate,” said Chris.
Other publicans are feeling less positive about opening up on April 12.
“It’s a relief to open but when we were open last time we were down massive amounts of income,” said licensee of The Barley Mow in Cox Green, Martin Hayes.
“We’re only allowed to open outside which I think is ridiculous, since all the shops can open and they’re all indoors.”
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