Suffolk pubs say al fresco dining here to stay, even after restrictions end
- Credit: The Lion Brasserie
The hospitality industry is getting ready to reopen indoors and though some people might think that means the end of dining outdoors in coats and hats, this may be part of our 'new normal'.
Pubs and restaurants in Suffolk have invested a huge amount of money over the past year erecting marquees, refurbishing their beer gardens and buying outdoor heaters.
From May 17 drinkers and diners are expected to be allowed back indoors within the rule of six or two households, but pub workers believe there are still plenty of customers who will want to stay outdoors in all weathers.
James Barber is the general manager at The Lion Brasserie in East Bergholt, where an enormous tent in the grounds has proved incredibly popular.
Even though the tent — on hire from a local events company and needed for the wedding season — will be coming down soon, they've not ruled out buying one of their own long term.
"When you sit under our sail cloth and the sun is on you, it feels like you could be in the Mediterranean," he said.
"It's very good for our mental health to be outside and even when the sun drops down we have five heaters to keep people warm.
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"We have had so many customers ask about whether we do weddings or events and it's put a new feather in our cap, especially as a new business because we are thriving, not just getting by."
The brasserie has a patio area and while no hard and fast decisions have been made yet, the team are considering investing further in their outdoor facilities.
This past month has shown Brits are happy to brave the weather for the al fresco experience — even in sub zero evening temperatures.
Jonathon Pearson is head chef at The Railway Inn Westerfield, where their ample outdoors dining space under a pergola and marquee has been completely full.
"Nothing needs to be changed outdoors," he said. "The cost of outdoor heaters is counteracted by the amount of business we get from them and we've recently had a new rooftop terrace built by cutting half the roof off the building.
"The novelty might wear off eventually but I think a lot of social distancing and sanitisation is here to stay — it's stuff we all should have really been doing before anyway."