'My heart skipped a beat' - Suffolk businesses on reopening day
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Business owners from across Suffolk have spoken of their joy at being able to reopen — with one boss saying his "heart skipped a beat" as he walked into work this morning.
Under the latest round of unlocking from coronavirus restrictions, hotels have reopened, pubs and restaurants began service inside, and it became legal to go on holiday abroad again.
Publicans and business owners have said the reopening will let them "get back to doing what we do best" as England moved to step three of the Government's roadmap out of restrictions.
Hospitality venues are still operating under strict rules, as the 'rule of six' on social gatherings is in place and masks must be worn by customers.
'It's very similar to last summer'
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Nick Attfield, director of properties at Southwold-based Adnams, says the brewery's properties might now begin to make money after an unprofitable five weeks of outdoors-only trading.
"It's delightful for people to be able to enjoy a drink inside, out of the rain," he said.
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"We certainly won't have made any money in the past five weeks. But the way I'm looking at it is the next five will average it out."
Before today, the last guests at an Adnams hotel checked out on Boxing Day.
But Mr Attfield said the teams were prepared for the reopening.
"Our team knew what to expect, they'd worked under these conditions before," he said. "It's very similar to last summer."
Despite this they have had to replace around 100 lightbulbs in the run up to reopening and even had to fix a showerhead just hours before guests began to check in.
A spokesman for Bury St Edmunds-based brewer, Greene King, said the pub giant was "excited" to reopen most of its pubs and ramp up beer production.
He said: "We’re excited to be able to reopen almost all of our pubs today and for our customers to have the chance to reconnect with the community in a safe environment. It’s also been great to increase production in our brewery to meet the increased demand for our beers.
“Outdoor trading was welcome, but only around a third of our pubs could open, and it was very up and down depending on the weather.
"It’s great to be back open but it will still be very hard to trade profitably with social distancing restrictions still in place, which is why it’s so important that restrictions are removed fully when we reach step four of the Government’s roadmap.”
'My heart skipped a beat'
Brendan Padfield, owner of the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, said his "heart skipped a beat" when he walked into the restaurant this morning.
He said: "My team worked hard last night to deep clean the restaurant.
"It was emotional to see it set up as a restaurant after being closed for five and a half months."
Mr Padfield said he had calculated the restaurant had been closed for nine and a half months since March last year.
He added the gastropub still had a marquee up outside for diners nervous of eating inside.
Mr Padfield said tables were not available at the Unruly Pig for three weeks, adding: "We're jammed — it's fabulous.
"People are so relieved post vaccine. It's a reminder of what life used to be like."
'The phone hasn't stopped'
Wayne Burns, manager of the Leiston Film Theatre, said most of the cinema's showings this week are heading towards being fully booked.
"It's been manic," he said. "The phone hasn't stopped ringing with people booking and coming to pick up their tickets.
"We're showing The Dig by popular demand. Lots of of our customers don't have Netflix and requested it, so we're showing it twice a day for four days.
"There are still a few tickets left, but we know people will walk up on the door."
Mr Burns said the cinema will welcome 90 people per showing. This is less than the maximum the Film Theatre would be allowed under Government guidelines — 125 — in an attempt to help people to feel safe.
He added: "There's so much excitement. We can't wait to get back to doing what we do best, and that's entertaining."
'We've been blown away'
Hannah Harper, supervisor at Applaud Coffee in St Peter's Street, Ipswich, said she had witnessed a "heart-warming" moment as a family reunited at the café on Monday.
She said: "It's been way better than expected today. We have had so much support - we've been blown away really.
"It's taken a little bit of work over the weekend to get ready for today but we were pretty much there.
"It's been really helpful to have indoor seating. We have some covered seating outside which helped us in those eat out days.
"We've had that true British spirit when everyone's come and it's freezing cold.
"But it's not the same as sitting inside, across from a family member in the warm, having a cup of coffee.
"We saw an extended family come today and eat together - it was just really heart-warming."
'Certainly not a rush'
Bridget Keevil, boss of Suffolk travel agency Travel Stop, said the firm had not seen the flurry of passengers that was expected to follow foreign holidays becoming legal again.
Mrs Keevil had heard from colleagues in the travel industry that airports were "really, really quiet" with spaces on many flights this morning.
"It has certainly not been a rush," she said. "It's been a drizzle rather than an avalanche. But it is still day one and people may have booked for days two or three."
She added that recent bookings had not been for this year, nor for countries on the Government's green list.
Instead the firm — which has branches in Elmswell, Claydon and Hadleigh — has received recent bookings for holidays in Canada and Australia in 2022 and 2023.
She said: "There is an appetite for booking holidays, but not for this year.
"People are worried that their holiday could still be cancelled in three weeks."