'False start' for restaurants as some stay closed after lockdown

Terry Hughes, one of the partners at the Belgian Monk, which could set up a new European company to

Terry Hughes, one of the partners at the Belgian Monk, which could set up a new European company to avoid costs from Brexit. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The first day back following national lockdown proved "a false start" for some restaurants and eateries in the city - with some even opting not to open.

Wednesday marked the first day of dine-in experiences since the second national lockdown ended, with the region instead beginning life in tier two of local restrictions.

In these, restaurants and pubs are allowed to welcome customers back, providing they are from the same household or support bubble if they are dining in.

But confusion over exactly what day they were allowed to re-open resulted in a quiet start for some and others opting to postpone their restart for Thursday.

Terry Hughes, who runs the Belgian Monk in Norwich, said: "Today was probably better than we expected in the day time - we've slightly changed our dining hours and had a fairly steady flow throughout the day. However, the evening was quiet.

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"I took a bit of a walk round the city earlier in the evening and I got the impression other businesses were finding the same - most places I walk passed probably only had one or two tables in use.

"I think people perhaps did not think today was the day - even in the weeks running up we weren't entirely sure ourselves."

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He added: "My main concern is that if restaurants can only take tables in the same household it might prove difficult to attract shoppers to dine when they're out."

Steve Hutton, who owns Middleton's branches in both Norwich and Middleton, near King's Lynn, said this had also been reflected at his sites.

He said: "I think lots of restaurants have decided not to open. Bookings were fairly steady for today, but they certainly look a lot stronger tomorrow and going into the week."

The Vine Thai restaurant in Norwich was one of those that did opt against opening.

Aey Allen, who runs the restaurant and pub, said: "The whole time we were planning for a Thursday opening, so that is the plan we stuck with.

"We are lucky to have quite a loyal base of regulars and do have quite a few bookings, but until very recently we did not even realise we could open on Wednesday."

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