Bookings strong as restaurants' hope builds for June 21 restrictions easing

Norwich Lanes

Pubs, restaurants and bars are enjoying a much-needed boost as people come out to eat and drink in the city. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Serving without face masks and being able to sit in larger groups at tables are among the freedoms Norfolk restaurants are looking forward to if June 21 restrictions are eased. 

Some establishments such as Benedicts in Norwich are looking at making long-term changes as a result of the pandemic with chef Richard Bainbridge saying tables will continue to be spaced apart to ensure customers feel comfortable. 

"We reassessed our business model throughout the pandemic and we found we can do this model with fewer tables in the room," Mr Bainbridge said.

Richard Bainbridge at Benedicts on St Benedicts Street, Norwich.Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Richard Bainbridge at Benedicts on St Benedicts Street, Norwich.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

"The only difference [from step four of the roadmap] would be customers being able to see our staff's beautiful faces. 

"People are really excited to come out but they are still feeling uncomfortable as face masks still makes it feel very relative. Once all of these restrictions are out the way, people will really start to relax into the dining concept as it should be."

Mr Bainbridge said the St Benedicts Street business's bookings are looking "very strong" with Fridays and Saturdays booked up until the end of July, and into August as it stands. 

The Assembly House on Theatre Street in the city is looking forward to welcoming customers for both weddings and dining when restrictions are fully eased.

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Chef-restaurateur Richard Hughes said couples have had to reschedule two to four times already, but generally feel "fairly sanguine" about the situation and are happy to wait until restrictions have fully eased.

Richard Hughes at The Assembly House, Norwich Picture: The Assembly House

Richard Hughes at The Assembly House, Norwich Picture: The Assembly House - Credit: Archant

Mr Hughes said: "We are hopeful it can all go ahead and I would feel disappointed mainly for the customers if it doesn't. I would rather they postpone it and avoid another lockdown, but we ultimately do what we are told." 

The Gull Inn at Framingham Pigot is starting to see bookings climb, but proprietor Steve Munson believes the good weather means business is looking positive under the current guidelines.

"In our case most of our average tables are six and four so we are able to cope with this situation," Mr Munson said. 

Steve Munson (inset) runs the Gull Inn and will reopen with a new roof terrace and menu. Picture: St

Steve Munson (inset) runs the Gull Inn and will reopen with a new roof terrace and menu. Picture: Steve Munson/James Randle - Credit: Steve Munson/James Randle

"The biggest concern is if they do not vaccinate most of the country and cases go up again."