Pubs back in business … mostly

Sutton Coldfield opens up as restrictions lifted

“While the new ways of working have been a little challenging, the rewards have far outweighed the negatives.”

Those are the optimistic words of a Sutton Coldfield pub manager whose premises enjoyed a better than expected return to business than anticipated.

For Clare Moran, manager at The Crown in Four Oaks, it’s so far so good.

But into the second week of latest lifting of lockdown restrictions and it would appear the glass is half full, certainly as far as the pubs in Sutton are concerned. With many keeping their doors shut and those that are open operating with restricted hours.

While many celebrated better-than-expected business thanks mainly to the fine weather, which is expected to continue, pubgoers returned to release months of pent-up demand, eager to get out for a meal or just a couple of pints during the continuing fine weather. Things appear to have slowed after the initial rush during the Easter break, but pubs are still busy.

Clare is delighted to be back in business. She said: “We were over the moon when Boris announced his roadmap out of lockdown and that we could begin to serve the great folks of Four Oaks again.

“It has certainly been busier than we anticipated and I think this is down to the nation’s confidence in the vaccine scheme and the measures we have in place to protect our team and guests. People trust their local, it’s ‘home from home’.

“It’s important to remember we are publicans not politicians, we must follow and enforce the guidelines, which we do, but we still have to ensure our guests enjoy our hospitality, albeit safely.”

Clare with customers enjoying the sun at The Crown

“Initially, the company I work for, only had plans to open around 200 pubs, but as we are proving more and more successful, they now have plans to open more pubs before the re-opening of our indoor areas.

“I’m optimistic that lockdown life is over, I have faith that the majority of people know and will follow the guidelines set for us.”

The boost in trade could also have been helped by the number of pubs that remained closed, with many choosing to sit it out until the next round of restrictions are lifted next month.

Many are also geared to to providing carvery-like menus which mean customers would not be allowed onto the premises to serve their own food.

A straw poll of the general area around showed up to half of pubs remained closed.

The reopening of non-essential shops, pubs, hairdressers and gyms and other venues was blessed with fine weather as those businesses appeared to being doing a roaring trade.

One barber shop owner in Four Oaks, Graham Whitehouse, said he was snowed under with demand. He usually took booking a couple of days in advance, but was fully booked initially.

Graham, who has been at the premises at Walsall Road for nearly 50 years, said: “It was manic. We had loads of bookings in the first week, but in the second week it levelled off again.

“Everyone was keen to get haircut.”

But retail business was also on a roll with one observer describing the re-opening as a carnival atmosphere and the first day reminiscent of VE Day celebrations.

The next round of lifting restriction is due on May 17, Covid cases permitting, when people will be allowed back inside hospitality venues.

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