Bookings filling up restaurants' diaries as April 12 nears
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Pubs and restaurants with outdoor space are gearing up for a busy few weeks as bookings fill up calendars, with many saying they believe the public will turn out whatever the weather.
Owners are preparing for the al fresco reopening, with some creating outdoor space and others revamping or expanding existing areas.
And many days throughout April are filling up, with businesses in bigger areas such as Norwich finding themselves particularly busy.
Glenn Walker, operations director at the Rooftop Gardens in Norwich, on Rose Lane, said bookings so far had been "fantastic", with the first weekend after April 12 and following Saturday already fully booked.
"People have been tucked up inside for too long and want to get back to normality now," he said.
He said he was confident it would be busy "come rain or shine".
Similarly, at Gonzo's Tea Room on Norwich's London Street, bookings are steadily filling up throughout the week, with the weekend of April 17 and 18 looking particularly busy already.
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But owner Mike Baxter said they were making sure to keep some slots back for walk-in customers, as restaurants attempt to create a sense of normality.
Success for businesses reopening in April has in part been laid at the feet of the weather, with some owners fearful that April showers may keep customers away.
Early weather forecasts suggest it will be average weather for the month, with some saying conditions could be around 10C and 11C that week.
In December, when Norfolk left the second lockdown and entered Tier 2, rules meant people could only dine with another household if they were seated outside, a condition which failed to deter many people.
Nicola Colchester runs the Recruiting Sergeant in Horstead, the Rising Sun in Coltishall, the Black Boys Hotel in Aylsham, Bucks Arms in Blickling and Red Lion in Eaton, and said she was keeping her fingers crossed for warm weather.
Reservations in areas they were opening up for bookings - mainly those with cover or umbrellas - have been strong so far, she said, with some space left available for people to arrive on the day.
"If the sun is shining and it's warm I think it will be wonderful," she said, "and if it's pouring down with rain it might not."
But she said in December their patios were still full, with people dressing for the weather and using hot water bottles, and said she thought people would have the same attitude in April.
Rob Williamson, general manager at the White Horse in Brancaster, shared that sentiment.
He said they had seen a recent uplift in demand, and said in particular those with holiday or second homes were keen to return to the area.
He said they would have parasols up, disposable ponchos available and their marsh-side marquee in place.
But he added: "What we saw towards the end of last year was the British public were pretty hardy, and they were dressed for the weather."
He said they were only accepting bookings for their terrace, with other spaces open to walk-ins on the day, to create a relaxed environment.
"We wanted to create this environment where you could come down whenever you wanted and not make it too formal," he said.
Ricky Malt, of the The Lion at Thurne and the White Horse at Neatishead, said they had decided not to take bookings, but were receiving regular calls and messages requesting tables throughout April.
In particular, he said, many were from those looking to have a staycation in the area. Under the roadmap, staycations in "self-contained accommodation" would be allowed from April 12.
He said they had invested in parasols, but were expecting demand to depend on the weather, with balmy conditions likely to result in a busy day for the Lion in particular.