We're back in business - Lancashire businesses set to re-open post lockdown share their hopes
Fiona Finch reports on Lancashire's reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement on the latest lifting of lockdown restrictions. Non essential businesses can reopen from Monday.
Lancashire businesses are getting set for the big reopening next Monday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The PM had set April 12 for the possible next stage of reopening in his coronavirus road map and last night he signed off on the latest moves which include allowing non-essential shops to reopen and bars and restaurants to start serving outdoors.
Hairdressers and barbers, gyms and spas are all being allowed to reopen as well as zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres.
Members of the same household can go on holiday in England as long as it is in self-contained accommodation and weddings attended by up to 15 guests can take place.
For Lancashire businesses it was the news they had been hoping for, but there are still concerns about the uncertain route ahead - and an awareness that Covid-19 could spike again.
Publican Paul Butcher, who runs the Stanley Arms and Market Tavern in Preston, wants clarity, without changes of mind from Government.
He is also apprehensive about any introduction of a vaccination passport and its likely effect on his trade in the 20 plus age group - although Mr Johnson said last night there was ‘no question’ of that happening for pubs.
Mr Butcher said: “We’re looking forward to being re-open even though it’s going to be difficult, it will certainly be quite exciting and will get us out of a rut. It’s easier being open than closed with staff. When open we do stuff with a purpose, a result. Being closed is quite soul destroying and everything you try to do is increasingly a drain on a diminishing pot.”
He is looking forward to reopening for diners who will take seats at outdoor tables. He nevertheless anticipates there will still be a lot of explaining to do to customers about rules and regulations, regarding sitting at tables to order drinks and food and the different rules for takeaway customers.
He acknowledges that at the Stanley Arms on Lancaster Road outdoor seating will be limited to up to possibly 15 tables at the front and takings will be highly weather dependent.
Paul said: " There's going to be a lot of work coming in. There's going to be a lot of changes in regulations and rules and the way we operate in the next 10 plus weeks. It's going to be a little bit difficult. We're going to be very weather dependent You're not quite sure whether you'll be busy or quiet , getting a rota on where you could take £40 or £4,000 a day is a very difficult thing."
He added that they were also aware that after another five weeks it would probably be all change again, with changes to regulations as the Government begins to allow services to open up further, for example by allowing inside table service at a reduced capacity.
One positive from the lockdown was that the Stanley had developed its takeaway business, with, for example, more than 200 meals ordered on Mother's Day and take out weekend breakfasts also popular. He said: "It's kept us ticking and the wolf from the door."
Paul said they will initially open at weekends for meals and will also hope to carry on developing their takeout food service.
A spokesperson for Preston BID (Preston City Centre Business Improvement District) said: “We’re encouraging people to safely return and to enjoy the city’s award-winning hospitality from April 12."
A special website has been created by BID providing details of some 21 city venues which are due to reopen. It also carries the message: "Over recent weeks, venues across the city have gone the extra mile to come up with innovative and safe ideas to provide outdoor space ahead of customers returning." For details see here .
Meanwhile businessman Matthew Taylor is looking forward to opening the doors next week at Hollywood Exports on Fox Street, Preston, where he sells vintage clothes by weight.
But he is apprehensive that there might be far fewer students in the city and that will chip away at his customer base.
Not only is he reopening his Preston shop, he is planning to open a second Hollywood Exports business on King Street, Clitheroe on the same day.
Lockdown has meant he has abundant stock to sell as he explained: “We’ve had three shipments from America during lockdown each at thousands and thousands of pounds.”
Matthew has also been busy in the last few weeks getting his food business the Langden Grill food truck business up and running again in the Trough of Bowland from Thursdays to Sunday each week . He also has the Little Langden food truck which has been opening at weekends at Spring Wood, Whalley.
In all the end of lockdown will see several new jobs created for staff in his businesses.
But the pandemic has taken its toll financially. He said: “We’ve gone massively overdrawn - hopefully we’ll cope.”
Mobile hairdresser Caroline Duerden who operates from a salon at her home in Ribchester is relishing the opportunity to get her business back up and running next week - and she says many other hairdressers will feel the same.
She said: “It’s good. I’m ready to get back. I’m booked up all that week.”
Caroline said with many people having had their first vaccination and many of her customers having had a second innoculation, plus the PPE measures she would be taking, she felt confident about reopening.
She said: “I’ll wear PPE and have a face mask or face shield. I’ve got regular customers.”
She said she was also more confident because the number of Covid cases had reduced and said: “I think it has been a wise decision to lock down. I just think it’s very difficult to put a date on anything...I think it’s better to have a full lockdown like we’ve had ...we really don’t want another lockdown.”
And Mark Leech, director of operations at holiday venue Ribby Hall at Wrea Green which has extensive self catering accommodation, said: “It really is wonderful to be able to plan our phased reopening in line with Government guidance and the law commencing Monday. We really are looking to the future with optimism and cannot wait to once again safely reopen our gates to everyone.”
To ensure infection rates stay low, everyone in England is to be offered free, twice-weekly coronavirus tests in a bid to get the country back to normal. The lateral flow tests can provide results in around 30 minutes, and will be available from Friday, regardless of whether people have symptoms. They will be available through a home ordering service, workplace or school testing programme, or by collecting one at a local test site.
The Prime Minister said: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our road map cautiously easing restrictions under way, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted."
He also revealed plans for a potential “traffic light” system for rating overseas destinations, lowering controls on journeys to those countries assessed as being at the lowest risk. Officials stressed travel would not begin before May 17 at the earliest and that it was still too soon to predict which countries would be cleared.
At Manchester Airport Group which owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, a spokesman said: " Throughout the pandemic, MAG and the wider industry has recognised the need for measures to prevent the spread of the virus, and we have worked closely with the Global Travel Taskforce since it was established. We look forward to seeing the full details of the Taskforce’s report later this week, and will continue to work with government on safely reopening international travel as quickly as possible this summer.”
For our report on family businesses beating the challenge of the pandemic see here.
For more details on the easing of lockdown restrictions see here.
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