Monday, 10 August 2020

Pubs and restaurants re-opening gradually

Pubs and restaurants re-opening gradually

PUBS and restaurants will re-open from tomorrow (Saturday) for the first time in more than three months.

But many licensees are taking a cautious approach as they make their premises “covid-secure” to protect returning customers and staff.

They have to follow government guidleines in order to be able to pull pints for the first time since the lockdown began in late March.

The Bird in Hand pub in Greys Road, Henley, will open tomorrow with landlords Graham and Celia Steward and one member of staff behind the bar.

Mr Steward said: “Customers will come in the front door and if they want to go into the garden they can go down the side passage where we have a small number of tables.

“We will have one person behind the bar and one person handing out the drinks.

“I am not expecting it to be too busy but we will cap it to about 12 people inside and about 30 in the garden, which will keep most of my regulars happy. I will get all their telephone numbers in case there are any problems.”

Mr Steward, who has run the pub with his wife since 1993, added: “During the period that we were closed, I was quite lucky because I didn’t have to pay any rent. We also had the grants the Government offered us.”

The Flowing Spring in Playhatch will also re-open tomorrow, offering food and drink, and will be be making the most of its large garden area in order to maintain social distancing. All tables must be pre-booked, even if you are only going for a drink. There will be a limited menu and all food must be pre-ordered and paid for over the phone.

All food will be served in disposable takeaway containers with disposable cutlery, or customers can bring their own, and it will be brought to a collection point. A marquee has been erected outdoors to provide a shaded seating area.

Nick Willson, who runs the pub with his wife Hazel Lucas, said: “We have to do this in a way that is safe for all our customers, staff and suppliers and that complies with the Government’s 43-page document of rules and guidelines for pubs.

“Things will appear somewhat different and we’d ask that customers play their part in keeping the premises covid-secure by complying with all our procedures, instructional notices and maintaining the correct social distance.

“The great thing about the Flowing Spring is the amount of space we have outdoors, so people can enjoy a pint and a meal knowing they won’t be compromised.

“We have almost half an acre of garden plus the upstairs balcony, so there’s no need to worry about being indoors.”

Drinks can still be bought from the main bar, which has has a screen fitted. Once customers have collected their drinks, they exit the bar via the side door, which leads to the balcony and the garden.

Contactless payment is preferable and draught drinks will be served in larger one-and-a-half-pint bottles to reduce trips to the bar. All used glasses should be put into the recycling bins provided and staff will not refill used glasses.

There is an outdoor toilet in addition to the regular facilities.

The Greyhound in Peppard will also welcome back customers tomorrow and they will be able to eat in the garden.

There are hand sanitiser stations, disposable menus, Perspex screens in the kitchen, one-way systems and signs to remind people not to break social distancing rules

Only one person at a time will be able to visit the toilets and this will be overseen by staff.

About three or four members of staff will be working front of house with another four in the kitchen.

Tables will be 2m apart to prevent contact between different groups.

Chef Antony Worrall Thompson, who has runs the pub with his wife Jacinta since 2009, said: We’re full of beans and ready to go.

“The garden is looking fantastic and the grass is amazing.

“We don’t want to be too strict but we also want to protect customers and staff. They are our lifeblood and we have a huge following in the area and outside.

“We’re hoping they want to support small local businesses in a flash and spend all that money. I think it’s really important for local communities that their pubs stay open. Most pubs have adapted to become pretty good restaurants and I think there are some fantastic ones in the Henley area.”

The Three Horseshoes in Reading Road, Henley, will not re-open until Tuesday.

Landlord Nigel Rainbow, who has run the pub for 21 years, said: “It is not a good idea to open on a Saturday. We don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

“We want to see how it goes because people haven’t been in pubs for three months and it is going to be interesting times.

“We will have reduced tables because we have taken about 30 per cent of them out. There will be no bar stools or standing at the bar and there are posters asking people to be responsible. We also have hand sanitiser everywhere.

“I never doubted the pub coming back. Everywhere I go I see my regulars and they are all saying they can’t wait to get back, which is just absolutely brilliant.

“It will be weird not being able to hug your mate or shake hands as people leave but we have to follow the rules and regulations.

“We will be doing food and drink. We are working off disposable menus and taking everything back to basics.”

Mr Rainbow was working at the click and collection point at Tesco in Henley during lockdown and said: “I couldn’t sit around and do nothing after working 14 hours a day, seven days a week for all this time.

“I have now realised that there is a life outside the pub. ”

The Argyll in Market Place, Henley, will not be opening immediately. Landlord Neil Ainsworth said: “We haven’t committed to anything and we would only open if it was completely safe to do so.

“What we don’t want to do is for the pub to become unsafe by being unable to control the number of people who are trying to get in.

“We have got our risk assessment in place and guidelines that we have to abide by.”

The Loddon Brewery in Dunsden Green, which sells beer to pubs and also has a shop and tap room, started brewing again on June 22 in anticipation of the Government’s announcement.

The business is run by Chris and Vanessa Hearn and their children Dan and Luke as well as eight staff.

Luke Hearn said: “During lockdown we were doing a home delivery service only. We have now brought all our staff back full time and thanks to the furlough scheme we have not lost a single member of staff.

“We had been brewing but only at about 25 per cent of our normal capacity to make sure we had some stock available.

“We have been phoning pubs to see if they are re-opening and if there is anything we can do to help. It has been tough for breweries but pubs have had it incredibly tough. We are finding that a fair few are planning to re-open on Saturday and some of them will sit back and keep track of what happens in the first few weeks.”

The brewery shop will re-open today (Friday) and will trade from Tuesday to Sunday. The tap room has been converted into a bottle shop and will be open from Friday to Sunday. Customers will be able to enjoy a drink from tomorrow as long as they sit outside at one of the tables provided.

Mr Hearn said: “There will only be four people allowed inside at any time and there will be marked walkways. You can order from the bar but it must be drunk outside.

“We have used part of our car park for seating and tables will all be positioned so that when people are sitting down there is 2m between them. We have sanitising stations all over the place and we have switched from glass to compostable plastic cups so that bar staff don’t have to handle them. We have never been open on a Sunday before but we are doing it now to try to recoup some lost earnings.

“The guidance from the Government is just guidance and not law and it is really open to interpretation. We are sticking to it as much as possible but there has to be a degree of trust in customers as well.”

Tom Davies, chief executive of Henley pub company Brakspear, said: “All our pubs have carried out a risk assessment and  have introduced measures needed to ensure the safety of their guests and staff. These may include screens, face coverings, hand sanitiser, contactless payment and apps for placing orders.

“It has been a very tough time for everyone in hospitality and we are facing the biggest challenge to our business in our 240-year history.”

He said government aid such as business grants and the furlough scheme, had been useful.

Mr Davies added: “We are looking forward to our pubs re-opening their doors as soon as possible, returning them to the centre of the communities in which they operate, and excited to welcome back our customers who have been patiently waiting to enjoy our pubs again.

“We would encourage customers to check the Facebook page for their local Brakspear pub to find out if they will be re-opening on Saturday and for details on booking a table, which many pubs are now requesting to ensure social distancing.”

The Shellfish Cow steak and seafood restaurant in Reading Road will open tomorrow.

Co-owner Neil Wornham said: “We have had July 4 on our calendar provisionally for a while now. We have done bits and pieces just in case and we were thrilled when it was confirmed.

“We have managed to weather it financially without any difficulties. I would find it very difficult to fault the support we have had from the Government in being able to furlough all our staff.

“We have actually been closed in Henley for longer than we have been open. We opened in December and we had been going for 97 days and by the time July 4 arrives we will have been closed 103 days. Without the support, we would have been okay but it would have been much harder.”

The restaurant employs 12 people, although they are unlikely to all return to work initially.

The tables have been rearranged, meaning about 20 per cent fewer covers to allow more space for customers without the need for screens.

One member of staff will be responsible for monitoring the door, ensuring people do not try to enter and exit at the same time. The menu will not be reduced and opening times will remain as normal.

The Bistro at the Boathouse restaurant in Station Road, Henley, will only be open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights but the deck bar takeaway service will be available every day.

Chef Shaun Dickens, who runs it, said: “We are not writing off this year but it is all going to be very different. Our space is quite tight and for us to be a viable business we need to be doing 60 covers. With social distancing we can only get 25 tables inside the restaurant. All the deck furniture will be removed.

“We are a seasonal restaurant and we have six core employees whom we have managed to keep. We will have a reduced menu in the restaurant due to the limitations and if we are only doing 75 covers a night then we have to think about it carefully.”

All the tables in the restaurant will be kept 2m apart and reservations will be staggered as much as possible.

Diners will be asked to use the hand sanitiser station when they enter and regular checks will be carried out in the toilets. Disposable menus are also being introduced.

The takeaway service has been running a month and Mr Dickens said this had helped the business.

He added: “By doing this we have appealed to both tourists and local people. In seven years, we have gone through an awful lot and this is just another one of those turning points.

“We hope next year will be different and we are thinking short-term this summer to make sure we are still here this time next year.

“We are fighting tooth and nail to survive. It has cost tens of thousands of pounds just to be open now.”

Badgemore Park re-opened its 18-hole golf course in May and is now looking to take reservations for accommodation. It is also hoping to welcome diners by using the outdoor seating area.

Marc Goodwin, business director, said: “The most recent announcement for hotels and accommodation means we can finally unveil our B&B upgrade and welcome people.

“We’re hoping to be able to welcome people for al fresco dining under our newly installed courtyard canopy as soon as possible.”

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