Pubs and hospitality firms in Calderdale welcome ending of Covid-19 restrictions
Hospitality firms in Calderdale have welcomed the lifting of all remaining restrictions and the chance for their businesses to get back to some form of normality.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that almost all legal restrictions on social contact will be removed, but warned that the pandemic was not over and said it was vital to proceed with caution.
Jamie Horsley, owner of The Arches at Dean Clough, said: “People have had to accept that their weddings wouldn’t be what they were when they first booked it, so 90 to 95 per cent of people have delayed and delayed, which is good as a business because we’ve still kept the bookings.
“I don’t think anybody will miss the intricacies of the challenges around what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not.
“It’s been a case of opening and then closing again because one person wants to have their wedding, so you’re reopening for one gig, and then you’re shut for a while again, that’s been a costly exercise for us.
“So freedom day for us is very much welcomed and everyone’s looking forward to it.
“Obviously everyone will have to make their own decisions about comfort levels and I’m sure some people still won’t attend weddings because they won’t be ready yet, but I think the majority will and that will mean they go ahead as pre-planned.
“They’ve all just concertinaed. We’ve done some smaller weddings with about 30 guests because they didn’t want t wait and then they’ve booked in a party of about 150 with the numbers that they wanted a bit later, so we’ve got four or five of those.”
Jamie thinks now is as good a time as any to relax restrictions.
“All the way through there’s been things people would have agreed and disagreed with, but I think at some point we have to get used to living with it, and now is probably as good a time as any,” he said.
“Also, the link between the cases and the hospitalisations and deaths has been changed by the vaccine process, so I can have some confidence that, even if cases rise, we won’t see the same hospitalisations and deaths as before.
“As a business owner you have to put two heads on, I have a personal opinion about Covid and I have a work opinion, and they’re two different things.
“When they said you could do weddings with unlimited numbers I was very cautious because I didn’t want some of our brides to think ‘I can dance and have music’, we were very cautious about saying ‘it isn’t going to be that kind of event’, we had to manage expectations about what it could and couldn’t be, which was a challenge.
“So to not have to have those conversations now, and people will make their own judgements on whether they want to come, or wear a mask, then it’s much easier for venues.
“The people who aren’t ready yet won’t go to nightclubs or weddings, and I do think there’ll be people who are still like that, and rightly so because there are still cases out there.”
Jamie hopes restrictions won’t have to return later in the year, and says there are still challenges ahead for the hospitality industry.
“My feeling is there would have to be a significant change in the hospitalisation numbers because once you re-open I think it’s going to be difficult to say we’re going back again,” he said.
“Personally I don’t think it will happen but if it does we’re back to the same place, which is managing money, managing staff, managing customers and their expectations.
“It wasn’t pleasant for anyone.
“We just need to see things back open as normal.
“One of my biggest challenges is staff, there’s a huge demand for chefs in the market.
“Hospitality jobs are up something like 300 per cent and there isn’t the personnel there to fill the roles.”
Halifax nightclub ATIK’s general manager, Philip Hallam, said: “We are delighted with the government’s plan to reopen all nightclubs without restrictions from July 19.
“The past 17 months have undoubtedly been the most challenging in our history, with COVID-19 having dramatically impacted our club and hundreds of other venues across the country – many of which will not re-open.
“The government’s decision also reflects its understanding of the significant economic contribution that nightclubs, such as ATIK, make and the vital role we play in the continued health of our towns and cities.
“Our customers’ safety has and always will be our main priority and we will continue to have measures in place including hand sanitation stations and enhanced cleaning schedules. Our ventilation systems are also best in class, on a par with any operating theatre. Our ticket only events enable us with Track and Trace requirements, which shows more than ever that nightclubs can open both safely and responsibly in the current climate.
“We can’t wait to welcome customers back to ATIK and get on with doing what we do best: providing fun, unforgettable experiences. Tickets are selling fast for opening week, so we know demand is there for nightclubs to reopen and that young people, many of whom have been hit hard by Covid restrictions, can’t wait to enjoy a night out after all this time.”
Nicola Walton, from The Venue in Halifax, said: “We’re very happy and relieved for our couple who have waited for 18 months, put plans on hold and had to postpone.
“Some of them have postponed four times.
“Our initial thoughts are always of our customers and anybody who has had to change plans and deal with the uncertainty.
“We have managed to navigate through. Some businesses we know of have had really difficult times, but we’ve really worked as a team and looked after our customers.
“We’ve had lots of postponements but no cancellations, and that’s testament really to the staff who work for us.”
Nicola added: “We’re really lucky because we have Calderdale’s largest weddings and events space.
“We have really high ceilings, good ventilation and the space for people to feel comfortable and safe.
“We have wonderful staff who are extremely responsible, we encourage testing and we have a fabulous outdoor area as well.
“The appetite for weddings and functions has gone through the roof, some of the months in 2023 have been booked, we’ve got about 120 weddings this year.
“We also diversified, last year we were able to open as a pop-up restaurant, and we have waiting lists for people to visit us because they knew there wouldn’t be crowds and crowds of people.
“So we’ve been able to navigate a way through and read what the market is at the time, which has been really important.
“I think with a really positive attitude you can get through anything. As business owners, you’ll always face challenges, but you face that with ‘what can we do’ and ‘how can we move forward’.
“What gives us a lot of positivity is the amount of people who want to book an event with us, whether it’s a wedding, meetings during the week or a charity dinner, the enquiries are going through the roof. We’re very, very busy.”
Simon Jackson, owner of The Acapulco nightclub in Halifax, said: “We’re the only place in Halifax at the moment that hasn’t opened.
“Some of the other venues have called themselves night-pubs or whatever the phrase is, so they’ve been trading for months.
“We’ve been closed for nearly a year and five months, so it’s probably hit us the hardest, and we were the first to announce we were closing.
“So we’re looking forward to the freedom day, everything’s in place.
“We looked at the option of being a night-pub but you’re not really helping the cause then, it means you’re all trading, and you see videos of people in other places when the football’s been on and they’ve been hugging each other and throwing beer everywhere.
“It seems a bit harsh that nightclubs have been the last thing to re-open, the theatres can re-open with distancing, but it’s something to look forward to, and obviously we’ve got quite a lot of staff and it makes quite a big difference to them as well.
“There’s going to be people who are 19 who won’t have been able to go to a nightclub yet, so for them it’ll be exciting.
“We’ve got a few new things we’ve implemented through this time, we’ve got some new staff as well, so it’s exciting. We’ve got a few little surprises that will make people happy, we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve got probably the largest outdoor area in a nightclub in Yorkshire, possibly the country. It’s a rooftop garden, a big grassy area on the roof, which will fit about 300-350 people on it.
“Hopefully for those that are a little bit unsure, that’ll give them a bit of confidence that you’re still out in the fresh air.
“We’ve got by far the most powerful air conditioning system that we installed two years ago, which can do up to ten air changes an hour, which means you’re almost sat outside, every particle will be changed ten times in an hour, so that should help people to be safe.
“We’re still going to keep the sanitisers around, and we’ll probably still be checking temperatures for a couple of months. There’s a camera system we’re trying to get hold of where it looks at the people coming in and anybody that has a temperature, it highlights them.
“Hopefully we’ll get that before (re-opening), so we’d be able to pull them to one side in the queue and say ‘can we just check your temperature again?’.
“We’ve had meetings with the police and we’ve invited Environmental Health down, to go through everything with us before we open, to make sure we haven’t missed anything, and they seem very happy with us.”
On the possibility of restrictions being reintroduced later in the year, he said: “You never know what’s round the corner, nobody saw this coming.
“The most worrying thing for us is it’s our 60th birthday this year, so you think ‘oh my god we’re going to miss it’. It’s the oldest club in the country and it would have been a shame to have missed its 60th.”
Pub owners in Calderdale say the removal of restrictions will benefit their businesses after what has been a testing time for the industry.
Jackie Inwood, owner of The Alehouse, Todmorden, said: “I don’t think anybody really knows how it’s going to work out, it’ll be an evolving situation I think.
“I’m still going to have to do a certain amount of table service for my outdoor area, but it’ll be nice that people can come up to the bar again.
“I can seat more inside once we’ve moved it round, but we’re small inside, so as a pub I’m very weather-led because of my terrace area.
“I think people will still be very careful, certainly clients will be, and they’ll be apprehensive.
“I’ve got people that probably still won’t want to go inside, and especially with more numbers allowed in.
“We will continue to do the tests on ourselves so I know that my customers are safe.
“It’s the start of getting back to normal, and we need to do that.
“It’s things like the pool and the darts and that side of thing that can now start going ahead again, and community pubs can now start getting their communities back in.”
Andrew Gardner, of the Market Tavern in Brighouse, said: “We’re only a small pub so the more people we can get in, the better it is for us, so it’ll make a massive difference to us.
“It’s going to be a better atmosphere. I don’t know what you’re going to do about masks, we’ll still wear them behind the bar, but it’s a nightmare because people forget when they’ve had a couple of drinks and go to the toilet, so we’re forever reminding people ‘please put your mask on’.
“I don’t like telling people what to do but if we don’t do that then we’re likely to get fined, so just little things like that where we don’t have to tell people they can’t do this or that, you can’t sit there, it’ll be great, it’ll just be a much better atmosphere all round.”
When asked about restrictions being possibly reintroduced later in the year, Andrew said: “I’m hopeful that’s it but we just don’t know. At the minute we’re just planning on dropping restrictions and that’ll be great.
“I can’t guarantee we won’t go back to more restrictions later on, maybe when the colder weather comes round again. We’re hopeful but not convinced we won’t get more restrictions later on, but that’s for the future, right now it’ll be great to get back to normal.
“It’s been dreadful for the pub industry, restricting numbers and restrictions on wearing masks, so it’s just great getting back to some sort of normality where people can sit where they want, and just getting back to normal, it’ll be great.”