Friday, 10 July 2020
COFFEE shops in Henley are very gradually beginning to return to normal.
Some have continued to offer a takeaway service during lockdown while others have started to do that since the Government loosened the restrictions and encouraged people to return to work if they can.
However, other owners say it is still too early to consider re-opening.
Harris + Hoole, on the corner of Duke Street and Hart Street, has
re-opened but is only offering takeaways.
The café, which is part of a chain, closed in March when the lockdown began, together with 40 others in the South-East.
Andrew Sanders, head of Harris + Hoole, said: “We weren’t legally obliged to close and if we had just remained as a takeaway we could have stayed open but for the safety of our staff we decided to close.
“Like a lot of businesses, we have been trying to work out when would be the right time to start looking to re-open and with the Government’s slight easing of the lockdown we felt that the time was right to put our toe back in the water.
“Henley was the first shop we decided to re-open and if it went well we would start re-opening our others. We spent a long time making sure we could make it safe for staff and customers.
“We looked at what our sales were like three days prior to closing down and that gave us an indication of demand for a takeaway-only business and Henley was top of all our 40 sites. On that basis we thought it made full sense to open there first.
“The idea is that it is a non-contact operational environment. You get a cup with a lid and then you leave the shop. All the stock is retained behind the bar in sealed units.
“We have full PPE available for our staff and screens between customers and staff. We have masks and gloves and sanitising handwash on entry and exit. We also have very clearly marked 2m regulations and we only allow three people in the shop at once.
“We are not forcing staff to come back and those who wish to remain on the furlough scheme are free to do so.
“I can’t praise my staff enough. They have been magnificent making sure everyone is okay and everything is working properly.
“Henley is now being held up across the group as a beacon and as an example of how to do it properly and efficiently elsewhere.”
Berries Coffee in Hart Street has been providing a takeaway service since the launch of the Henley Basket at the start of May.
The online ordering service, which is run by Henley Town Council, allows residents to buy directly from retailers.
Owner Lawrence Tian said: “Because we were the first coffee shop in the town to re-open, we were quite busy and now others have opened as well we have gone down a little bit.
“We have only one member of staff in at a time and we have been able to keep customers outside and ask them to keep their distance from each other.
“We are providing the basics, like cakes and coffee. Staff are wearing gloves and we also have masks for when a customer comes into the shop to collect their order. We are pleased we are able to serve customers for takeaways at least.”
The Chocolate Café in Thames Side had also been running a takeaway service but is hoping to
re-open in July.
Owner Vivienne Lee said the most important thing was to keep customers and staff safe by social distancing.
She said: “We are following government regulations for cafés. We have three doors, so we can have one door for people coming in and another door where you leave.
“I will have purple and green masks for people to wear. My staff have been staying at home and not working together, so for them to come back and be interacting with customers, I want to make sure everyone is safe.”
Caffè Nero in Bell Street has also been offering a takeaway service with cashless payments.
Customers have been told to observe social distancing and there is a limit on the number of people allowed inside.
Hot Gossip in Reading Road is still closed.
Owner Lorraine Hillier, a town councillor, said she felt it was too soon to re-open and the health of residents was more important than the fortunes of a “non-essential” business.
She said: “I think that you have to look at the health concerns and say we are not out of the woods yet.
“I don’t think it is fair to tempt people before we can be certain we have proper safety measures in place.
“The Government guidance is not clear on beverages — it mentions food collection points but it doesn’t stipulate beverages.
“You have got to plan properly to re-open the doors and it has to be practical to provide the best protection. I don’t think it is wise [to
re-open] because they are still giving this message to stay alert and to stay at home unless you have to.”
Nestor Castillo, who runs Café Buendia in Bell Street, agreed that is was early to think about opening. He said: “We will wait until July 1 to do takeaway. We have to see how it goes but I have a feeling that hospitality businesses will be able to open.
“We are just doing some painting, deep cleaning and dusting. We will have to wear PPE when we do return and we have some gloves and masks already.
“People will have to use their common sense. I won’t be putting markings on the floor or signs up. We are too small and people have to think about these things for themselves.
“To be honest, we are a very small café, with 10 or 11 tables, and to keep the 2m distance is going to be very tough.
“For us to make it a business, we have to be full and if it is not full, I don’t know if we can manage.
“I am worried, to be honest, really worried. Because of all the restrictions, and the PPE, people are scared. They like my place and they can always find someone to chat with but now people don’t want to chat to anybody.”
Drifters Coffee House in Duke Street also has no plans to re-open soon.
Joint owner Talia Maguire said: “Opening for takeaway only is not a viable option for Drifters right now for a number of reasons.
“We also don’t believe it’s safe for us to offer that for our staff or the community.
“We can’t wait to welcome everyone back when it’s safe to do so and we will have measures in place to support social distancing.
“Millie [the other owner] and I have been discussing spacing tables out and even potentially removing a couple of them to give everyone more space and better peace of mind. We may even think about going cashless.
“Millie has a sister-in-law working in an intensive care unit in London, so continuing to protect and support the NHS is very close to our hearts.”
28 May 2020
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