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Thursday, 22 April 2021
PUBS have been busy since they re-opened when the coronavirus lockdown was eased.
Customers have been making the most of the good weather by using the outdoor seating areas.
This has helped landlords ensure social distancing is observed as well as start to make money again after being closed for more than three months.
Some pubs have seen queues form outside due to having to restrict the number of people allowed in at once.
On Saturday evening, customers of the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street, Henley, were lined up as far back as St Mary’s Church to get into the Wetherspoon pub.
Since being allowed to re-open on July 4, landlords have had to introduce safety measures such as one-way systems, expanding the amount of outdoor seating and improving cleaning.
This week, many began taking part in the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offers customers 50 per cent off their bills from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.
A JD Wetherspoon spokesman said: “It is definitely just as busy in terms of visitors, despite having no events. The 50 per cent offer scheme has been amazing. The pub is usually busier in the evenings but this has helped to increase customers during the day.
“The warm weather and staycation visitors to the town have also helped. There have been long queues at the pub on occasion, which shows just how popular and busy it is.”
The pub has limited the number of customers indoors to 200 with up to another 25 allowed in the large garden area.
The spokesman said: “Customers have to remain in allocated places to maintain numbers and can't switch from outdoor to indoor once admitted. Customers are handling it well. They appreciate changes have to be made for their safety and those of the staff.”
Neil Ainsworth, who runs the Argyll in Market Place, said: “We have been very busy. We have only had the eating out scheme this week but it makes a weekday as strong as a weekend day. As people become more aware of it, they are homing in on it.
“We are a busy little pub anyway and while the weather is good we can utilise the outside area. It is a chance for people to enjoy the summer with their families and use the pub gardens.
“It is a great opportunity given that they can’t travel overseas and we are doing our best to facilitate them. We are trading very well at the moment and long may it continue.”
Nigel Rainbow, who runs the Three Horseshoes in Reading Road, said trade had been steady but not as good as a normal summer due to the covid-19 restrictions. About a third of the pub’s tables have been removed.
He said: “It has been good. We have had some great weather and I guess it helps being the number one pub in Henley to eat and drink at on TripAdvisor.
“It is more locals than visitors at the moment but we are getting a lot of people who are staying Swiss Farm.
“We are not quite back to where we were before, but it is getting there and I think the Eat Out to Help Out scheme is going to be a big bonus. I have 21 booked for next Monday and that is a lot more than we would normally do. It is all new faces that are eating, which is good because we get all our regulars on the other days as well. Everybody is very appreciative of the fact that we are open. The good thing for me is that everyone is being sensible.”
Every table has hand sanitisers, there is no standing at the bar and staff sanitise several times a day.
“The last review we had on TripAdvisor was five stars and it said how spotlessly clean and covid-friendly it was,” added Mr Rainbow.
Claire Wakefield, who runs the Old Bell in Bell Street, said: “It has been quite steady and the weekends tend to get very busy but I have a small pub so it doesn’t take much. There is room for 28 inside and an additional 16 outside. I reach that limit every weekend and usually three nights a week.
“I think the measures that the majority of publicans have taken to make sure their customers feel safe has helped trade. The customers see how we are constantly cleaning and sanitising and making sure there is enough space for people and it gives them a safety net to feel comfortable to go out and enjoy themselves.”
The pub is not yet serving food but will be by the end of the month.
Joe Ball, general manager of The Bull on Bell Street, said: “We have been fairly busy. We haven’t had big queues outside but we’ve extended the garden and created an extra 150 covers outside.
“There are no more than 200 people in the pub at any one time because we are limiting arrivals and the majority of those are in the garden given the way the weather has been recently.
“The last couple of days have been busier with the Eat Out to Help Out campaign. It is going very well so far and we have actually done a significant amount more trade than normal.”
The Maltsters Arms in Rotherfield Greys has increased its capacity by opening up the courtyard area and there is a one-way system.
Gary Clarke, who has run the pub with his wife Donna since January, said: “It has been really busy and the French menu is flying.
“We have plenty of room. All of the rules are going down well. We are from a restaurant background and so we already had high standards of hygiene.”
10 August 2020
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