MASKED crowds rushed back to Coventry city centre yesterday (Monday April 12) as lockdown restrictions were lifted on outdoor dining, non-essential retail, hairdressing, beauty salons and gyms.
Many shoppers including these schoolgirls with their Primark bags, were delighted to be able to hit the shops once again, with many retailers extending their opening hours.
Coventry couple Andrew and Karan Tait sat outside in the sunshine with daughter Lola and enjoyed their first drink at The Spon Gate, Skydome.
But some people were even keener to order their very first pub pint. There were queues outside The Oak Inn, Gosford Street, Coventry from before midnight on Sunday to access their new heated inflatable outside space – open until 4am on weekdays, 6am on weekends.
A post published on Facebook yesterday said: “The Oak would like to thank all the amazing customers for a fantastic and brilliant atmosphere on our opening night.”
Beauty salons, hairdressers and pub gardens have also experienced a rise in bookings.
There were socially-distanced queues outside the IBrowBar salon in Sherbourne Arcade, Lower Precinct, which was accepting walk-ins only. Staff said it was “really, really good” to reopen.
Barber Adrian Clee at 17a Hairdressing in Spon Street, Coventry said each of the salon’s eight stylists had a waiting list of around 100 clients.
He said: “We are normally open five days a week but will be open seven days a week, probably for a good month, to try and accommodate everyone. We will require extra time for cleaning in between.
“But we’re quite a big salon and are lucky to be quite spaced out. We all feel quite calm because we’ve been through it once before and learnt such alot – it just feels good to be open again!”
Most of the independent businesses at Coventry’s creative quarter, Fargo Village also reopened yesterday.
Richie Bosworth, director of Twisted Barrel Brewery and Tap House, which produces handcrafted vegan beer, has needed to build a new outdoor bar with seating area before indoor drinking is allowed from May 17.
His new outdoor seating area for 60 opened at 5pm yesterday. He said: “It’s been a lot of work but we are there. We are accepting walk-ins only and serving a full range of drinks and bar snacks, with a limited number of draught beers.”
Rob Walton, owner of retro barbers Dashing Blades said he has never swept up so much hair. “People who normally have short hair have walked in looking like something out of the 1970s! The reaction from customers has been just genuine joy.
“Our first day back has been like a dream, when I was cutting my first customer’s hair I was like ‘is it actually happening?’ It a real blessing to be open again.
“We only do bookings – and are block-booked for three weeks. It’s been fantastic – the sun’s been shining, the gyms and bars are open. It’s great for people’s mental health to be socialising.”
The Entertainer toy shop in Coventry’s Lower Precinct is one of over 150 stores across England and Wales extending its Quiet Hours to take place in the first week of opening from April 12 -17.
The initiative aims to create a calmer shopping environment for people with autism as well as any shoppers who may find the return to the high street a stressful experience.
All stores will be turning off store music and dimming the lights for the first hour of trading each day and store teams have access to training to help them support customers should they become overwhelmed in store.
COVENTRY’S ROADMAP TO RECOVERY
COVENTRY City Council has issued advice to all city centre business to help them reopen safely.
And local residents planning to visit a restaurant or bar are reminded that they need to pre-book an outdoor table for groups of no more than six people, sticking to government guidelines.
Ahead of the re-opening of non-essential retail and outdoor dining in Coventry BID Director Trish Willetts said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming back many of our retailers on Monday, as well as some of our food and drink outlets for al fresco dining.
“Monday marks an important milestone on the roadmap to recovery and bringing our wonderful city back to life again.
“The public realm work is going well – and is almost complete – and we have so much to look forward to as spring turns in to summer – from the official start of our City of Culture year to the Coventry Food Festival – it’s time to bring the joy!
“The safety of our businesses and visitors to the city centre continues to be a key priority, with barriers and new signage reminding everyone to remain vigilant and continue practicing social distancing. It’s likely that there will be pinch points throughout the city, as we expect there to be more visitors than usual, so please be sensible, stay safe and enjoy your time rediscovering our great city.”
Businesses have been asked to ensure Covid-19 risk assessments are in place, and sign up to a Business Pledge that they are operating in a Covid-secure manner.
Davina Blackburn, the council’s Strategic Lead of Regulation, said: “Whilst I’m sure many people are looking forward to eating out and meeting up again to enjoy outdoor hospitality venues and visiting non-essential shops, we do want to remind people to do so whilst abiding by the Government guidelines.
“Therefore, we also need to make sure that businesses are following the steps to operate effectively and safely, and so we want to help support businesses as they re-open, whether that means granting pavement licences for businesses or reviewing Covid risk assessments, we want to make sure that everyone can enjoy themselves safely.”
Venues have been reminded to refer to the conditions on their premises licence, as these will remain in force, and also been offered support and advice if necessary via the Council’s Licensing Team.
For all the latest Covid information and updates, visit coventry.gov.uk/coronavirus