Pubs reopen: Saturday night but not as you remember it
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
It was a far cry from the usual hustle and bustle of a “normal” Saturday summer night out.
But at least it was a night out - and the first for more than three months. And it’s maybe the sign of the “new normal.”
The pubs and bars around Norwich were relatively busy as they welcomed people back following the lockdown easing.
Quite a few people were out “dressed to the nines”, even though clubs hadn’t reopened and there were was generally a fair bit of excitement among those who did venture out.
Despite concerns about people not social distancing - especially after a glass or two - the vast majority seemed well behaved.
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And that was reflected as Norfolk Police reported a mainly quiet night with no real problems.
While the city was far quieter than it would have been in summers gone by, there were visible signs of it coming back to life.
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Pubs including the Fat Cat Brewery Tap and the Artichoke welcomed small groups in outdoor seating areas, while there was a queue of around 15 people outside the Queen of Iceni on Riverside.
However, while an ordinary Saturday night would likely have seen standing space only in many of these venues, the former Lloyd’s Bar had plenty of free tables in its outdoor area.
READ MORE: ‘It’s a step back to normality’ - City pub goers enjoy their first pint in monthsChristian Hodgkinson, landlord of the Fat Cat and Canary on Thorpe Road, said he “did not sleep a wink” on Friday night in anticipation of being able to re-open.
The pub had managed to continue trade through lockdown by providing takeaway beer from a hatch, but this was the first time it served customers on site - albeit not inside the pub’s walls.
He said: “Because the inside is quite narrow we’ve only allowed people indoors to use the toilets and we have sanitising stations as they go in and out. I think we could easily see us being outside only for at least the next two months.
“We’ve been fairly steady all day and it has been really nice to see lots of familiar smiling faces again. I didn’t really have any expectations for the day but everyone seems in fairly good spirits and is abiding by the rules, which is good.”
The Georgian Townhouse, on Unthank Road, welcomed back punters who made use of its large outdoor area and pergola.
Customers followed a one-way system and ordered drinks to their table via the app, The City Club, on their phones.
And despite rain on and off throughout the evening, it didn’t deter drinkers who could be seen enjoying a summery jug of Pimm’s.
Meanwhile, in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast a buzz returned to the town with the seafront busy with a mix of day trippers and those staying at the reopened hotels.
About 60pc of the businesses were open, with long queues snaking out of the ice cream parlours and fish and chip shops.
Of the pubs, the White Hart Inn was open, with restrictions in place that meant the majority of its clientele were outside or in its beer garden.
The Brudenell Hotel appeared to be doing a roaring trade on its first weekend back
As the night went on the pub got busier and busier with between 75-100 people congregated outside, doing their best to keep a social distance from others.
READ MORE: Pints, haircuts and family days out - How you spent your first day under eased lockdown measuresWhile there were no reports of problems in our region, the chairman of the national Police Federation John Apter said it was “crystal clear” revellers would not adhere to the one metre plus rule as restrictions were eased.
The government’s chief medical advisor Professor Chris Whitty said the pandemic “is a long way from gone” and urged the public to follow social-distancing rules as pubs and restaurants reopened.
But Mr Apter, who was on shift in Southampton where he dealt with “naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more angry drunks”, said: “What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t/won’t socially distance.
“It was a busy night but the shift managed to cope. I know other areas have had issues with officers being assaulted.”
There was disorder in north Nottinghamshire too, where four people were arrested and several pubs decided to close after alcohol related anti-social behaviour.
It comes as a new poll has revealed more than half of voters think the hospitality sector has been reopened too soon.
Some 52pc believe outlets like pubs and restaurants are going back into business early, the Opinium survey states.
The snapshot survey shows that 73pc expect a second outbreak of Covid-19 this year.