Doncaster venues gear up for outdoor eating and drinking as lockdown eases on Monday
Eating out and drinking at the pub is finally back on the cards in Doncaster next week.
But the options look set to be limited as some of the borough’s cafes and restaurants take their first steps back towards re-opening after the three month lockdown, and pubs look to open their outside areas.
The rules which come into force for the latest step in the easing of lockdown, on Monday, April 12, means that only outdoor areas will be able to open.
Last week the Free Press reported that measures to limit pavement licences to 11pm had been brought in, causing concerns for some pubs who fear it will affect the viability of their business.
But more than a dozen pubs, including several in the town centre will be opening from Monday, as well as some cafes.
A spokesman for the Hallcross, on Hall Gate, confirmed they would be opening, and that they were already fully booked for the first Saturday after the planned April 12 re-opening date. Quite a few bookings had already been made for the weekdays during the first week he added.
But they would not be serving food at this stage.
But some pubs are already looking at bringing back food as well as drink when they re-open.
Josh Wilsdon, who runs the Salutation, on South Parade, said they had decided to open the Thai restaurant on the site, because they have a large, covered, beer garden.
They will be running a lunch menu from noon to 5pm, a main menu from 5pm until 10pm, and also selling takeaways.
He said they would have a booking system for larger groups, of six or more, with the slots for a maximum of two hours, but single couples, or two couples together, would be able to come as walk-ins.
He said: “We’ve been given permission to use the car parking space in front of the pubs for tables and chairs too
We’re looking forward to opening again. We are really excited and we're starting to get the team back together.
Also among those which will be serving meals from April 12 is the Cadeby, in Sprotbrough. The venue has a large beer garden, which led to boss Gordon Jones, who runs the Doncaster based pub company Speakeasy, to decide to open up.
He said: “We will be serving food as well as meals. I’m afraid it’s going to be like throwing balls into the air. Everyone is going to be very busy, but we’ve got to keep to certain regulations. And whether we will make any money, I don’t know.
"I think it’s going to be a matter of time. I think it’s nice to open, but I don’t expect any normality for a month or two. No one really knows what to expect.
"The concern is that if the weather’s bad, no one will be outside, but we’ve still got the usual overheads. Everyone has the same problem – it’s not just us."
People are being advised to book a table, as pubs are expected to be busy at their peak periods.
Gordon believes it is likely that all days will be busy, after the three months of lockdown.
He said: “Friday and Saturday are traditionally busy. But I think Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are going to be the same. People have been locked down for a long time, and I think they just want to get back to some sort of normality.
"It’s exciting that we’re opening, but on the other hand it's a bit of a concern in that we don’t know how it's going to go.”
He said they would be doing meals, but the menus would be limited, with dishes such as burgers and pizzas.
Back in Doncaster town centre, Hannah Shekle was making preparations to open up for sit down meals.
She runs the Dreambakes cafe and deli on Priory Walk, alongside mum Carol.
They have been selling take away food over lockdown, but are keen to take a step back towards normality.
They will be serving customers on tables outside the building.
Hannah said: “It’s going to be really lovely to have people back with us again. One of the things that we’ve always really enjoyed about what we do is the interaction with customers. We’ve been doing takeaways, but it’s not quite the same.
"I think people just want to get out and meet people, and see people that they may not have seen for some time.”
She said they planned to be opening on market days, but had not decided the exact hours. They would continue to do take-aways alongside the al fresco dining.
"We’d love to see more people coming into the town centre.” said Hannah.
Others are not ready to open yet.
Bev Georgiou runs the Glass Strawberry, on Printing Office Street. Before lockdown, Bev carried out a major refurbishment at the venue, which was previously the well known Four Seasons Cafe.
She has decided against re-opening at this stage, and is looking to return in May.
Her staff have been selling afternoon teas as takeaways during the lockdown, to keep an income for the business.
However she said she felt she could not re-open yet because she only has a handful of outside tables that would be under cover if it rained.
"We’d only be able to sit four people outside,” she said. “We couldn’t afford to open the kitchen for those numbers. We’re looking at opening in May, and then gradually bringing our staff back."