Hopes of 'new era' for town as businesses reopen indoors

Osman Corbaci

Osman Corbaci, new manager at Dereham's Sweetleaf Cafe - Credit: Noah Vickers

Cheerful scenes abounded in the heart of Norfolk on Monday, as indoor hospitality reopened across Dereham.

The High Street’s Sweetleaf Cafe, which has been under new management since March, was buzzing with happy diners. 
“This is our first time opening inside, so we didn’t actually know what to expect,” said manager Osman Corbaci.

Sweetleaf Cafe on the High Street in Dereham

Sweetleaf Cafe on the High Street in Dereham - Credit: Noah Vickers

“It’s been brilliant, we had a lot of people in for breakfast, and we’re hoping to be a little busier for lunch.” 
Pubs also had indoor service back on the menu, and one of the first open was the Red Lion, which had resumed outdoors on Friday.

Simone Knight

Simone Knight, landlady of the Red Lion pub - Credit: Noah Vickers

“We reopened outside to get back into the swing of things,” said landlady Simone Knight.
“We’ve given the pub a tickle of paint, and it’s been good to get staff re-accustomed with the bar, because it’s been so long,” she added.
With the recent unpredictable weather, Ms Knight said customers would feel the benefit of being indoors: “We have a lot of older clientele in Dereham, and they tend not to like the cold.”

Strikes Bowl in Dereham

Strikes Bowl was back open for the first time since Christmas Eve at midday on Monday - Credit: Noah Vickers

By midday, Strikes Bowl had opened for the first time since Christmas Eve. 
First in the door was Mark Wills, who played last year for the British Tenpin Bowling Association’s England Seniors team.

Mark Wills

Bowler Mark Wills was the first in the door at Strike Bowls - Credit: Noah Vickers

“It’s nice to get back on the lanes and start competing,” said Mr Wills. 
“I’ve been practising at home on an old mattress, on which I’d just release the ball - something that keeps the hand working. It’s a game in which you have to keep the muscle memory going. 

Strikes Bowl in Dereham

Strikes Bowl reopened at midday on Monday for the first time since Christmas Eve. - Credit: Noah Vickers

“We’re losing bowling centres around the country, so it’s nice to have a great centre in Dereham. It might be small, but it’s a great centre, and people ought to come and experience it, because it’s well worth it.”

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The Orion Cinema was meanwhile preparing to show Peter Rabbit 2, and the Oscar-winning Nomadland.

The Orion Cinema

The Orion Cinema reopened on Monday, with showings of Peter Rabbit 2 and Nomadland scheduled throughout the week - Credit: Noah Vickers

Owner Lee Allwood said the cinema had "certainly" sold more tickets than during its reopening between lockdowns last year.
Not only has the vaccine boosted confidence, said Mr Allwood, but in contrast to last year’s short-lived reopening, film distributors have made more commercially-attractive films available to UK cinemas.
“We’ve done a deep clean over the weekend, to prepare for today, and staff have been doing an online Covid-awareness course. We’re keen to promote the cinema as a safe place, in this new era,” said Mr Allwood.