Northern Ireland pubs hail ‘fantastic day’ as drinkers return indoors for first time this year
Pub bosses have hailed a “fantastic day” as customers were allowed to return indoors for the first time this year.
Restaurants, cafes, bars and other hospitality venues in Northern Ireland can operate indoors from Monday in another sign of a return to normality as Covid-19 restrictions ease further.
The historic Hillside Bar in Hillsborough, Co Down, has been trading since 1752, but was forced to close its doors due to lockdown restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks the pub has been permitted to serve food in its outdoor area, but the venue was finally able to open its doors to allow customers indoors on Monday.
Assistant manager Dale Johnston told PA Media: “It’s a big day for us, to have the buzz and the atmosphere of people being allowed inside again means a lot to us. We’re all very excited.
“It has been extremely tough as everyone in hospitality knows, it has been a dire year for us. It is hard for me to put into words just how difficult it has been.
“We are all in the same boat, hopefully from now forward we are moving in the right direction. I hate having to close the doors.”
He added: “I’ve got a smile on my face today. The excitement is there and it is fantastic that we are up and running again. What makes a great pub is its clientele, it’s the interaction between the customers and the staff.”
Liam Dawson is the manager of The Garrick Bar in Belfast city centre said it had been a tough few months waiting to be allowed to open their doors.
He said: “This is our first Monday morning open, hopefully a bit of normality will resume for us all.
“It has been non-stop with bookings the last few weeks. The weekend we are fully booked and Wednesday we’re fully booked for the football, actually we could probably have filled the place 20 times over for Saturday, there is so much demand for tables.”
He added: “We are still on the same type of restrictions we had before Christmas, still a limit of six people per table and still must wear face coverings when you are off the table.
“But the bright side is that we are indoors, there’s a roof over your head and a bit of heat. Hopefully this is only for the short term, coming to the tail-end of this pandemic.
“Hopefully in the near future all restrictions will be lifted and we’ll be back to normality again.”
Tommy Brady, 78, was back at the Garrick on Monday enjoying his first pint in the bar since Christmas Eve.
He said it was good to be back and he had missed being able to meet people in his local.
“Monday is my day out. I don’t go out on weekends. I’ve been trying to act as normal as possible, go for wee walks, obey the rules, keep your distance, wear your mask.”