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Pubs' concern over weather as they prepare for reopening

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Pubs, shops and hairdressers across the Diss Express area will open their doors for the first time in more than three months tomorrow.

Under the Government’s lockdown roadmap, hospitality venues will be allowed to serve customers outside from Monday, while non-essential retailers will reopen, with strict social distancing measures in place.

Publicans are currently installing a number of new outdoor offerings in preparation for their grand reopening – but remain concerned over how the weather will affect their business in the coming weeks.

Leigh Gardiner has revamped the outdoor seating area at the Queen's Head ahead of it's reopening on Monday. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.
Leigh Gardiner has revamped the outdoor seating area at the Queen's Head ahead of it's reopening on Monday. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.

Bev Kembery, who runs The Burston Crown, in Mill Road, Burston, is finishing the installation of a pergola ahead of their reopening on Wednesday, but said she is unsure how the unpredictable April weather will impact footfall, especially for diners.

“I’m 30 per cent nervous, and 70 per cent excited,” said the 52-year-old.

“We’ve got quite a large area already, but we have had our patio area widened so we can have more people.

“We’re putting the pergola up for when it rains, because no-one wants to be sat out on the grass if it’s wet.

“Everything is going to be very weather dependent. I think we will get lots of drinkers either way, but, when it comes to people coming to eat, I think it might be a different story.”

Leigh Gardiner, who runs the Queen’s Head, in Cross Street, Eye, echoed this sentiment.

He said: “We are really excited to get up and running again. We’ve done a lot of work out there and we’ve set up the outside garden.

“We’ve put up a marquee and built a bar, so we can get up to 100 people out there now.

“But I’m nervous about how things are going to pan out – the whole business side of things is down to the weather.

“If it’s cold out there, people aren’t going to come out for a hot meal, but the drinkers hopefully will.”

Mr Gardiner’s pub will be offering fleeces to customers in a bid to keep them from getting cold during the uncertain spring weather.

The Met Office have predicted dry and calm weather for the remainder of April, but say the likelihood of temperatures exceeding 20 degrees, as they did last week, is slim.

Around 40 per cent of pubs are expected to open tomorrow. Most of those lucky enough to do so will likely still be operating at a loss.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, urged the government to stick to their proposed lockdown roadmap, so that pubs can make good on the costly investments they have made in revamping their outdoor areas.

She said: “Pubs that open have invested a lot in ensuring customers are both comfortable and safe, making the most of the pub beer garden.

“But we should remember that those opening will be loss-making with the ability to trade beyond breaking even coming with the removal of all restrictions.

“It’s crucial the Government sticks to its roadmap and allows pubs to reopen indoors from May 17 and without any restrictions at all from June 21. That is the only way our pubs can trade viably and begin to fully recover.”

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