05:31PM, Tuesday 13 April 2021
Keen pub-goers rushed to get back to the pubs on Monday after they reopened their outdoor spaces – despite the snow earlier in the morning.
The Pinkneys Arms opened at 12pm on Monday until 10pm at night. Being a venue with one of the larger pub gardens in the area, it enjoyed a roaring trade.
“It was absolutely fantastic, it was really busy from the moment we welcomed people through the door,” said Tina Jones, events manager.
“Everyone was really happy to be coming out for lunch with family, coming out for a few drinks – everyone loved it.”
Even through COVID-19 guidance has thrown up some logistical challenges, Tina said that customers have been happy to abide by the rules once reminded.
This includes not venturing up to the bar but waiting for table service. Some pubs including The Pinkneys Arms have hired more staff to account for this.
They have also applied for the Restart Grant – a Government scheme supporting businesses in the non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and accommodation sectors with a one-off grant to help reopen safely as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Tina said it would have been better if this grant had been available earlier – two weeks or more before reopening, as opposed to a single week.
The Pinkneys Arms is now fully booked up for the rest of the week, as is the case for several pubs, with some of the venues with smaller outdoor spaces already booked up for several weeks.
The Jolly Farmer in Cookham has enjoyed similar success, welcoming more than 200 customers on Monday.
“People were very much ‘We don’t care what the weather is going to be like, we’re coming,’” said Fiona Hazell, bar manager.
“We haven’t been able to do any takeaway alcohol, only food, so people were so happy to be able to come and drink draft beer again.”
For some pubs that do not have a large outdoor space, the plan is to remain shut and open on May 17 when indoor spaces are allowed to be open for visiting customers.
The Craufurd Arms Arms is one of these pubs. Its eight tables outdoors offer a capacity of about 20 people, only eight of which would be covered by its marquee, should the weather turn.
The pub is also restricted by the fact that it specialises in real ale which has a shorter shelf-life.
“That’s the problem with real ale – if we’re not busy Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we won’t sell enough, it will go off and we’ll have to throw it away,” said Mark Newcombe.
Instead, The Craufurd Arms has taken the opportunity to sort out the heating, put a new floor in and reorganise its outdoor space.
Mark expects that when it reopens, it will have two or three ales on tap to start with and will increase to its normal five as trade gradually picks up.
The staff look forward to getting back to being a community pub hosting community events, such as its lunch for pensioners it was running before COVID-19 hit.
The candidates standing in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election have outlined their priorities for policing in the region.