Biscuit Billy’s to re-open and bands to return at Horse and Groom despite delay to ending of Covid restriction in Doncaster

Some of Doncasters’ best known venues will move ahead with plans for next week – despite being left disappointed by the delay to the ending of Covid restrictions.

By David Kessen
Monday, 14th June 2021, 6:31 pm
Updated Monday, 14th June 2021, 6:44 pm

The Government confirmed this evening it would delay allowing a return to full normality for another four weeks, because of concerns over the spread of the so called Delta variant.

Doncaster venues told of the disappointment at the news, but were still looking to the future.

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Biscuit Billy's owner Martin Blagden, pictured. Picture: NDFP-29-09-20-BiscuitBillys 5-NMSY

Pub boss Martin Blagden had planned to keep Biscuit Billy’s, on Silver Street, closed until all restrictions were lifted by the Government so it could return to its traditional business model as a busy late night town centre venue.

But he said today that he would re-open anyway – because he could no longer afford not to.

He said: “I think personally from a business point of view, that I feel very upset and disappointed that we will have to wait even longer.

"There are no grants available for businesses like mine any more. Some bars may be doing reasonably well, but when you’re a tenant paying rent and can’t operate, it’s really, really difficult.

Landlady Ailene Horrocks and Amelia Davey, Bar staff member, pictured by the stage. Picture: NDFP-22-09-20-Horse&Groom 2-NMSY

"But my problem now is that I can’t wait and I can’t trust when the Government is going to say when we can re-open fully.

"I can’t wait any longer, or my business will collapse. So I’m going to open Fridays and Satudays. There are problems for late night venues with no outdoor seating, but at least I can try and open as bar.

"The last grant I got was more than two months ago. There’s been nothing since then, and no talk of more grants.”

He said he hoped trade from the European Championships in football would make it viable.

Cast, Doncaster. Picture: NDFP-13-10-20 Doncaster 15-NMSY

Gareth Horrocks, who runs the Horse and Groom, on East Laith Gate, had hoped to be able to bring bands back to full crowds at his venue.

But that now looks impossible because the the social distancing that will remain.

He said: “We’ve already starting booking bands from June 23. This delay certainly won't help.

"I have to say that I’m bitterly disappointed.

"If we still have social distancing, then bands are going to be playing to eight tables. That could mean just eight people. You’re playing to half a pub. If it had been back to normal, they could have been playing to 150 to 200 people.”

But the venue says it will still go ahead with bringing the bands back, even to the small audiences that the restrictions will mean.

"We have been waiting that long to see a band, I just want them back” he said.

The first band to return the the venue will be Resurrection, a rock band, on Friday.

Bosses at Cast, Doncaster’s theatre at Sir Gresley Square, said they were now looking at September for possible full re-opening.

Director Deborah Rees: said: “Our plans are continuing with a small number of socially distanced ‘opening events’ taking place inside the theatre and outside, and we hope to be back at full capacity by September.

"We're really looking forward to the day we can throw our doors open wide and welcome audiences in great numbers back to Cast to experience that moment of shared joy that only live theatre can bring.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor