Landlords and customers have been praised for their behaviour to keep towns in Mid Devon safe after pubs were finally allowed to reopen.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close on March 20 in the fight against COVID-19. On Saturday, July 4, they were once again able to welcome customers back, but those enjoying a drink are being urged to stay 2m apart where possible, but “one metre pus” guidance means they can get closer if they use mitigations measures such as face coverings and not sitting face-to-face.
Pubs in Mid Devon have also enforced people to sign-in to pubs they visit to be able to trace any future outbreaks, and are making sure staff and pub-goers are sanitising their hands regularly.
Devon and Cornwall Police officers were patrolling the streets of Mid Devon during Saturday, ensuring people were adhering to the new rules.
PC Adrian Legg said things in Tiverton had been “very good.”
“Customers are nice, and pubs are doing their best in what is a difficult job for the landlords,” he said. “They are doing very well to make sure their pubs are being well run.
“It’s been great to get out in Mid Devon; everyone has thus far heeded the warnings to drink sensibly, and thankfully the landlords are with us too, and they’re making sure customers are safe.
“Thank you to all those who were out across Mid Devon having a nice time for your compliance.”
He added that the police were out to meet a public expectation to engage with them during “troubled times.”
“People are quite right to worry, and our job is to reassure the public and to engage with landlords and help them where they need it, as well as ensuring that their patrons are being kept safe.
“Tiverton and Cullompton are very safe places to come out. Tonight is actually one of the best nights you could go out for a drink. The landlords are very keen on getting back to doing what they do best; looking after their customers.”
Time at the bar
Most pubs are switching to table service with orders via an app – which Wetherspoon customers are already familiar with.
Deliveroo is also rolling out a table service app with some pub and restaurant chains.
Ordering at the bar isn’t banned – but drinking at the bar is. Pubs will also have to have new measures in place to make sure people can stand at least a metre apart from each other with added mitigation – which could include perspex screens and masks, gloves or visors for staff.
Some pubs will close their bars and only offer table service.
Pub register and contactless payment
Pub visitors will be asked to give their name to the pub landlord at the door.
This temporary record will now be kept by pubs for 21 days so those who visit can be contracted if there is a breakout of localised coronavirus.
The Government guidance reads: “You should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed.
“This could help contain clusters or outbreaks.”
Contactless ordering and payment methods will be encouraged.
Venues with apps such as Wetherspoons are encouraging visitors to order using a contactless app rather than from members of staff.
One-way systems and ventilation
Inside pubs, one-way systems will be used to ensure people do not cross paths.
Single-direction traffic inside pubs and restaurants will reduce congestion and minimise contact between customers.
The Government guidance also outlines that doors should be left open, where appropriate, to reduce touchpoints.
Maintaining good ventilation is also important and therefore windows and doors should be kept open as much as possible.
In addition, pubs are urged to use a one in one out system with toilets to minimise customer interaction.
Live performances, football matches and loud music
Live performances are not permitted, including music, drama and comedy.
Customers should also be able to keep at normal volumes as speaking at loud volumes can increase the risk of transition.
The Government guidance reads: “All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other.
“This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.
“This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission.”
Number limits and disposable condiments and cutlery
When sitting inside pubs or restaurants, people will be allowed to gather at a social distance in groups of six, with a maximum of two households involved.
This six-person limit will also apply to pub gardens, although friends from more than two households will be permitted to socialise.
Pubs will be allowed to have more than 30 people on the premises provided Covid-secure guidelines are being followed and other social distancing measures are still in place.
Pubs offering food are advised to use disposable condiments and cutlery to minimise the risk of transmission from shared condiment bottles and cutlery.
Pub owners and landlords also welcomed the chance to see their clients once again.
The Seven Stars on Bridge Street had a special opening with invited guests only.
Jodie Steele, the landlady Seven Stars has been running the pub for almost four years. She said that when the lockdown was announced, she went from working seven days a week to none.
“I quite enjoyed it, because I was able to spend some time with my children and partner, but it is nice to be back,” she said.
“I have spent the last three months wondering whether it would ever reopen or not. It’s lovely to see everyone again. We have done invite-only for the first weekend, so it’s just my regulars who have come in, and they all know what the restrictions are, and they are all abiding by it.
“We did invite-only, just to make sure the pub wasn’t swarmed with everyone who was trying to go out for their first pint in three months. I wanted to have my regulars who support me coming in first. We will be reopening again to members of the public from Monday.”
She added that guidelines were in place to ensure everyone is kept safe.
“Come out, enjoy yourself and be sensible. We have been checking people’s temperatures, they will have to follow social distancing guidelines and sanitise hands, and just be sensible,” she added.
Other pubs were open to the public, including the Barley Mow on Barrington Street where no more than 25 people would be allowed in at any one time.
Landlady, Carla Edgcumbe has been in charge since September and said lockdown and reopening had been very stressful.
“There’s a lot of things which are quite unclear,” she said. “Now we’re open things are alright, and we are all getting used to the changes and getting everybody to try and stick to them.
“I only took the Barley Mow on in September, so I didn’t qualify for any benefits. For three months, I have not had a wage, and it’s been very hard living off only my husband’s income only.”
“Part of me didn’t want to open because of all the conditions we had to put in place. We’re still losing money because we can’t have as many people in the pub as I’d like, but rules are rules, and we have to stick to them.
It has been lovely to open again though, I have missed everyone, and it’s nice to welcome them back.”
She added that those visiting the pub had been “very good” and that she only had to lay down the law on a few occasions.
“Sometimes it feels like I’ve got a load of children to look after and make sure they obey the rules, but they have been very good, and I can’t complain,” she added.
“A lot of hard work has gone into making it safe to reopen. We have been here all week, and we’ve done it to keep our customers and our bar staff safe. If people are still not happy about coming out, that will down to them, but it is as safe as we can make it.
“Our customers can expect social distancing, and to be told to sanitise each time they go in and out of the pub and every time they use the jukebox. Going to the toilet is a one-in-one-out method, and every time you have a drink, you have a clean glass. We only have people at the bar to pay for their drink, and it’s seating throughout.”
The landlord of the Half Moon off Fore Street, Shaun Dryhurst, said the lockdown had been tough, and without Government help, they may not have been able to reopen.
He said: “It’s been really tough for us during lockdown; if it wasn’t for the Government support, we would not be reopening our doors now. When the lockdown was announced, we were apprehensive and scared, those feelings have not gone away, and we don’t know what to feel. Today has been better than I expected and we have had a good day.
“We couldn’t have gone much further, and we were close to the edge. The Government have been incredibly supportive as well as Stonegate our publicans have also given their full backing.”
He reassured those still afraid to head outside that the pub was a safe place to be.
“Customers can expect the same good service, we are trying to keep things as normal as possible” he said. “You can still get served at the bar, it’s not table service, but as long as you stick to the guidelines, things are as normal as possible.
“Please don’t be afraid to come to your local pub; get in here and spend your money please to help keep the pub going.”
Abigail and Sarah Hutter-Broad had endured a turbulent time during the lockdown as they awaited the transition to become new licence holders at The Racehorse on Wellbrook Street.
Sarah explained: “The former landlady handed in her notice and retired on April 15. We were due to sign, then lockdown happened. We were gutted to have taken on a pub with no customers and not being able to have our doors open was horrendous. There was a whole raft of emotions. We knew it would be good once we opened again, but it has just been a waiting game. We didn’t sign over the pub until the middle of June and then it was all hands on deck to decorate and get the place ready.”
The pub has had a makeover in lockdown, with help from friends and family.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do half the changes without them,” she said. “It’s freshened up, and the pub looks a lot brighter.”
There are measures in place to ensure pub-goers are kept safe.
She said: “We are taking bookings only on Saturdays, but if we have space, people can come in. On Sunday, anyone can come in. Social distancing applies, we will give you a warm welcome, and a pub where everybody looks out for each other.
“It’s been a steady day today, the evening was a bit more manic, but we’ve done it, we’re open again, it’s been really good.”
She encouraged people to visit and see the new look Racehorse.
“We’re all adults, and if you don’t want to come down, that’s understandable,” she said. “It will be quieter in the week, with no darts and no pool, but the sport is back on television, so why not come in as we’re open from noon until midnight during the week, and a bit later at the weekends. Come in, say hello, come and look at our refreshed pub.”
Kirsty Gist, the landlady at the Queen’s Head on Castle Street, had also spent the lockdown redecorating.
“It’s been great to reopen again and lovely to see everyone,” she said. “They can come in and see what we have done to the pub after we decorated during the lockdown. We have given the whole pub a makeover from a dark, dingy pub to something brighter and more welcoming.
“Being closed was a nightmare,” she added. “You’re used to seeing different people in the day, and then we went to not seeing anyone at all. It was difficult.
“Customers can now return, to a lovely warm welcome, you will be bossed around a little bit to make sure you’re sanitised and registered with your name and contact details on the door, but it will be lovely to see you all again.
“People still have a right to be nervous when coming out into the town, but we’re all trying our hardest to ensure everything is safe and sanitised regularly.”
Tomato Bar on Bampton Street was also kept busy during the evening, while pubs which did not open on Saturday, July 4 included The White Horse Inn, which reopened on Sunday and Courtenay’s Real Ale & Cider Bar was also not open during the evening.
Private members clubs have also reopened, including the Moorhayes Community Association Country House Bar and Restaurant.
Manager Louise Holmes explained a lot of changes had been made to follow Government guidelines, including a one-way system and track and trace.
She said: “We have ten tables set up in the hall 2m apart, the adults bar with three tables and two single tables, and hand sanitising points throughout the building. As you get to the main bar, all the tables have been socially distanced, and we will be providing table service only.
“There is a limited food and drinks menu, and when being served, you will collect your drinks off the serving tray. Toilet doors will also be kept open to limit touchpoints.
“From Thursday our outdoor area will have a marquee and smoking area available.
“I hope you come and support us, it’s been a difficult three months, and I hope you feel safe.”
Meanwhile, at the Tiverton Constitutional Club, a new manager, Chris Sanders, has taken the helm, and the club has had a makeover.
Silvia Reed, secretary of the Tiverton Constitutional Club, said: “Reopening was a bit scary to begin with, because we weren’t sure how to handle it, and how to keep people apart. We kept wondering if the system we have in mind was going to work, so that was always a worry.”
She explained the new rules customers need to abide by: “Customers come in, we check that they’re members as we’re only allowing members inside and no guests. We tick them in, and the time they came and out as well as the day they visited, so we will always know who has been here should we have an outbreak.
“They then come in, wash their hands, and can go to the bar to order in front of a screen. We are encouraging people to pay by debit card, so no money is touched. If they do take money, the staff need to go and wash their hands. They then leave through a separate exit.
“We have only one pool table going, and we’re saying to people if we’re really busy, that if they have been here three hours, we may ask you to leave so that others can come in.”
She added that the place had been completely refurbished during the lockdown.
“We’ve put new fridges in, we’ve redone all the gent’s loos, the cellar, the stairs, so it’s been very exciting to get it back up and running,” she said.
“We have got a safe environment for our customers, we have done a complete risk assessment, we’re taking the precautions, and we’ve had the police in this afternoon, who are happy with the measures in place. The Council have also contacted us to make sure we’re ready.”
Tiverton Liberal Club says they hope to be able to open as soon as possible after July 4, with children under 16 not admitted, and the snooker room will be closed and where necessary numbers may be restricted.
The Tiverton Riverside Club has also not yet opened. John Dunlea from the club said: “During the lockdown period, all staff have been furloughed, giving the club a certain amount of financial breathing space.
“However, other costs have still had to be met, such as standing orders for utilities, council tax, rent, and so forth. This has taken a considerable toll on our financial resources, and while we are not destitute, we have to look at the practical side of the situation; will we be taking enough money to cover increased outgoings? Staff wages, greater usage of gas, electricity, water, new stock and such.
“We suffered a pretty heavy loss of stock as a result of lockdown, as did many other establishments, but as a small independent club, we had to carry those losses ourselves with only a minimum being recoverable from our suppliers.”
In a message to members on Facebook, Mr Dunlea hoped to gauge reaction to whether or not the club should soon reopen from its members.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the live entertainment situation as at the moment, it’s not permissible. The changes that will be in place will include, amongst others, social distancing, which will mean no standing at the bar, all tables and chairs must remain within their allotted area and must not be pulled together in order to form a larger group. Hand gel will be supplied for use before entering the main club area, plus there will a limit on the numbers of people using the toilets at any one time.
“In the meantime, please continue to stay safe and look after yourselves, and hopefully, it won’t be much longer till we can all see each other again. It’s been a difficult few months, but we’re coming out of it slowly.”