‘We thought people were going to go nuts’ - Pub owners welcome back punters after months behind doors
- Credit: Archant
There was a buzz about the town as punters in Great Yarmouth headed to their favourite pubs for the first time in what felt like forever.
And despite fears that weather might impact footfall, most places had a steady stream of customers - sitting both inside and out.
For the Theatre Tavern, things had gone far better than expected as staff settled into the “new normal”.
Owners Sarah and Gary Hamer were thrilled by just how many pub-goers showed up, and grateful that they were respecting the new social distancing rules.Mr Hamer said: “Honestly, we thought people were going to go nuts, especially when they’ve had a drink down them, but they’ve been really sensible.
“We’ve had to keep the pool table covered because of distancing guidelines, but the regulars don’t care. They’re just happy to be socialising with each other again.
“Takeaway pints just aren’t the same as actually being in the pub with your friends - it’s a whole different experience and people can see that now.”
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Despite occasionally having to remind people to keep their voices down, Ms Hamer, donning her bright-pink face mask, said the support from customers had been brilliant.
She said: “We just had a visit from environmental health, who are checking out different pubs in the area. They were totally satisfied with the way we were runnings things - which was a massive relief.”
One regular had been queuing up outside the pub well before 10am in time for the grand re-opening, and was proud to be the first one inside for over 15 weeks.
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He said: “I was desperate to get back in here and catch up with the staff and all my friends.”
Another added that you “never get any trouble in the Theatre Tavern” and that he’d missed the place with all his heart while in lockdown.
Meanwhile at Peggoty’s, owner Gail Taylor and bar manager Christopher stood outside waiting to greet people with bookings - periodically sanitising their hands in an effort to reassure passers-by.
They had both suffered completely sleepless nights ahead of the day of reckoning, but added that things had so far gone “very smoothly”.
Ms Taylor said: “It’s been such a weird experience just waiting for this day to come, but it’s gone smoothly so far.
“We’ve been entirely submerged in the coronavirus mindset for a week getting things ready, so I know we have to wipe a seat if someone touches it, or remember to take someone’s details before we take their drinks order.
“But since these things aren’t second nature it’s easy to forget, and even weirder for the customers who have to hand over their names and numbers when they just want a pint.”
She added that most of their bookings were between 2-3pm, but that there had been the odd group who’d visited off-the-cuff.She said: “It’s been fairly busy but we know some people are still hesitant. It’s a case of building up customer confidence again.”
At the Albion pub and its neighbour the Great Eastern, the atmosphere was relaxed as customers sat and chatted while music played quietly in the backround.
Landlady Kerry, who owns both pubs alongside her husband Aaron, said it was “completely 50/50” whether people would show up or not.
She said: “We opened at 12 and have had a handful customers. People are taking it easy and we’ve got a good system in place to enforce distancing measures, like a perimeter around the bar and a one-way entrance and exit.
“Usually on a Saturday we’d have karaoke and entertainment and the place would be packed - but we’ve had to do away with all that for the time being to stop people raising their voices.
“We’ve got a fair few tables booked outside, free of charge, and I’m expecting things to pick up this afternoon. But we can’t know anything for sure - it’s a case of waiting and seeing how it goes.”
Around the Market Place, smaller sites and higher footfall meant pubs like The Feathers and The Coach Makers Arms were full to the brim.By midday, every available table was occupied at the Feathers, while regulars at the Coach Makers Arms enjoyed their pints outside on the street.