Leicester landlords say they are delighted to have taken the first step out of lockdown as outdoor drinking and dining is permitted again.
It has been more than five months since many pubs,bars and restaurants were able to welcome customers in person – but they have returned in droves today.
Ben Cartwright, 75, from Stocking Farm, Leicester, was delighted to join friends at the Market Tavern’s new outdoor seating area in Green Dragon Square.
He said: “This is the greatest day of my life.
“‘I’ve been sitting at home drinking cans for months. Depressing.
“Now the sun is out and I’m back with my mates.”
Other pubs with outdoor seating areas in the city centre were also busy today as punters rushed for a pint.
Alan Merryweather and Sarah Cunnington run the Black Horse in Aylestone and were busy all day serving people in their beer garden.
Alan said: “We are so pleased to get people back in again and really grateful to our customers for their support.
“Lockdown has not been easy for any of us in the sector but to see people back and smiling is what we want.
“We’re asking people to be patient – and they are being.
“The weather on day one back couldn’t have been better – though we went from sun to snow briefly but that’s April.
“We are really looking forward to the summer.”
Naomi Hewitt lives next door the pub and took the day off with a group of friends to be among the first back.
She said: “I’ve really missed this place.
“It has been so quiet without the laughter but it’s great to be back.
“This is a real community pub and the community hasn’t been the same without it.
Her friend Sally Ellis said: “I woke up happier this morning thinking about this and seeing my friends again. Zoom is okay to stay in touch but this is so much better.”
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Sam Hagger is the founder of The Beautiful Pubs Collective, which runs The Forge Inn at Glenfield, as well as The Rutland and Derby and The Knight and Garter in Leicester city centre.
The garden and terrace at The Forge Inn has reopened today, and now features a newly-added Pizza Shed. The Rutland and Derby’s garden and roof terrace will be reopening on Friday, April 23, and The Knight and Garter is set to fully reopen from Thursday, June 3.
Sam told LeicestershireLive: “We are absolutely delighted to have been able to reopen our garden and terrace at The Forge today.
“Welcoming our team back to work along with our first guests this lunchtime genuinely felt very emotional.
“Hopefully today marks the beginning of hospitality’s Covid recovery and we genuinely feel blessed to have survived the past 13 months and can’t wait to continue doing what we love.”
The Marquis Wellington, in London Road, Leicester, and The Globe, in Silver Street, Leicester, are part of the Ever So Sensible group, and both have reopened, with new and improved outdoor seating areas, today.
James Dolan, operations director of Ever So Sensible, told LeicestershireLive: “We are super excited to see all of our lovely customers again, especially our much loved regulars that are part of the family.
“This most recent lockdown has been the longest and toughest for everyone, which made us a bit nervous about re-opening, but as we’ve got stuck into getting the pubs ready, we’ve really enjoyed being back at work. We’ve rediscovered our sense of purpose, and our love for serving amazing food and drink whilst making people happy.
“Today has been brilliant seeing all those smiling faces again (even if they are hidden behind a mask). It has really reminded us why we love our industry so much. “