Maidenhead venues 'excited' for next week's lockdown easing

A significant milestone is set to be reached on Monday as the country approaches another step out of lockdown.

From next week, COVID rules will ease further to allow hospitality venues to open indoors, and the reopening of places such as theatres and cinemas.

People will be able to meet indoors again in groups of up to six, or two households. Groups of up to 30 will also be permitted outside.

Announcing the ‘single biggest step’ on the roadmap to date, Prime Minister Boris Johnson added last week that people will be able to hug loved ones again – but should consider their vulnerability and use ‘common sense’.

Maidenhead pubs and restaurants are now gearing up to welcome people back indoors, and for Steve Boucher, chef and licensee at 15 Queen Street, it is an important step as his business has been unable to open outside.

“It will be nice to see some faces in the pub again,” he said.

“Financially it has been crippling. Coming out of it [lockdown] now is going to create some positivity. Staff are getting geared up for it; we are very excited.”

When asked what he missed most about his job, Steve added: “It is that daily interaction with people, speaking to them, seeing how their lives are going. Normal pub chat.”

Jenny Baish, co-owner of the Barley Mow pub in Cox Green, said: “We have had a lot of older people sitting out in the cold and rain and it’s not good for them.

“It is just so exciting, we are really busy. We’re getting back to normal – it will be amazing.”

Norden Farm, in Altwood Road, will be one of many theatres reopening for eager audiences next week as Maidenhead prepares for the return of live events.

Chief executive Jane Corry said: “We can’t wait to have audiences inside the farm, it is going to be so great. We are keeping it all socially distanced and going a bit further than other venues.”

There will be two seats between each booking, while the row behind and in front will also be empty, she said.

“We are being super cautious to make sure people feel comfortable,” Jane added. “We know it is going to be strange coming back to a theatre again.”

Norden Farm will be running on reduced opening hours and operations (three days a week) from Thursday to Saturday. This will be increased to four days a week from September.

But despite this, Jane said that the theatre still has plenty to offer, with comedian Andy Parsons set to feature on stage for a sold-out show next week.

“We are in a really good place to welcome people back safely, and we have a cracking summer line-up,” Jane said.

Norden Farm staff (above) are gearing up for the return of theatres next week

Also on the Government’s opening roadmap from Monday are museums, with Maidenhead Heritage Centre, in Park Street, throwing open its doors on May 17.

Cinemas including the Odeon in Maidenhead will be allowed to show films for the first time this year, while the Government has also permitted people to travel abroad, although the list of countries on the ‘green list’ (which do not require travellers to quarantine) is small.

Hotels and B&Bs will reopen fully, while weddings will be allowed up to 30 guests. Another change will see funerals no longer capped to 30 mourners.

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