Cheers! City’s restaurants and pubs say ‘come inside’

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Bunters’ owner Jason Masters expressed cautious relief. Picture: Paul Williams

19th May 2021

By Kirstie Newton

Restaurants and pubs in Truro have welcomed customers to their inside spaces following the further lifting of lockdown restrictions on Monday.

While drinking in outdoor spaces such as beer gardens has been possible since April 12, indoor hospitality was scheduled to reopen on May 17, and did so to great fanfare. Customers do not have to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks, but are required to order, eat and drink while seated.

In Little Castle Street, Bunters has been closed since the third lockdown began in early January. The venue does not serve food and its outside area was not large enough to accommodate customers under government rules from April 12. It reopened at 11am on Monday, with table service and a reduced capacity.

Owner Jason Masters expressed cautious relief, while remaining watchful of the ongoing situation with the Indian variant in the North West.

“It’s good to be open again,” he said. “Hopefully this time we can stay open, as opening and closing all the time is not very good for business - there’s only so long you can carry on like that.”

The pub closes at 11.30pm on weekdays, and at 1am on Friday and Saturday. Live sport, including the delayed Euro 2020 championship, will be shown on screen, but where the pub would normally be packed to the gunwhales, with around 600 squeezed in for England matches, numbers will be closer to 100 under the current rules.

Sister venue Vanilla has been closed since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. “Because of the nightclub element and the fact that it was so small downstairs, it was not viable to open it under the restrictions,” said Jason, who has retained 10 staff on furlough. “I hope to do so on June 21, otherwise it’s just sitting there costing me money - but people might be holding back with the Indian variant, and if restrictions like mask wearing stay in place, it won’t be pleasant in a nightclub environment.”

Nigel Tabb, of Tabb’s Restaurant in Kenwyn St, was “genuinely excited” about his plans to open last night. “I can’t wait,” he enthused. “I’ve been prepping since the middle of last week, cleaning the canopy filters in the kitchen, washing the glassware and cutlery, mopping the floors. There was no point in doing all that mid-lockdown, just for them to get dirty again.

“Now I’m down to jobs that can’t be done too far ahead, like making stocks and sauces. At the weekend, I put in my orders for meat, fish and veg – so simple, but it felt really good. It’s so nice to be back – working in the evening is what I’ve always done, and a night at home watching reality TV is my idea of hell.”

Nigel has learned lessons from previous lockdowns. “Once, I wrote all my menus for reopening, and when we finally did, I didn’t like anything on them and had to do them all again,” he laughs. “This time, I’ve done them closer to opening so they are fresh.”

An occupational hazard of lockdown is getting out of the routine, both physically and mentally. “In the past when I’ve had to take a break, I’ve wound up with tennis elbow and chopping callouses,” he said. “And I admit I am feeling a little nervous – stage fright, if you will. But we’ll be starting off slowly – I have 14 tables but will only be booking six per night at this stage, with a maximum party of four. I want everyone to feel comfortable, and it will allow us to get into our stride.”

There is at least one lockdown discovery that will become a permanent fixture. “I had my birthday off for the first time in I don’t know how long – and Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend,” said Nigel. “It was so good, I’ve already booked my birthday off for next year – but I don’t think I’d get away with Valentine’s; I’d lose too much money!”

Cinemas and children’s play areas are also permitted to reopen, along with indoor adult group sports and exercise classes, and the accommodation sector beyond self-catering, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs.
The WTW cinema chain, which includes The Plaza in Lemon Street, saw its screens flicker into action on Monday, with auditoria subject to pre-lockdown social distancing measures. Its programme features the multi-Oscar-winning Nomadland, and Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s English language debut introduced by Mark Kermode. Director David Williams said: “The bookings we have had coming in have been very encouraging.”

Cornwall Council’s Public Health team is warning residents not to let their guard down, and urging everyone to follow the rules, get tested twice a week with free Lateral Flow Device (LFD) kits and have the vaccine when invited. They should also self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test if they experience Covid symptoms.

Rachel Wigglesworth, director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “To keep the virus at bay and avoid another lockdown, everyone needs to make sure they know what the new rules are and not to break them.

“With the vaccine rollout going well and Covid cases remaining low, people might be tempted to think we’ve come through this pandemic and ignore the rules and guidance. But this would be a big mistake and could jeopardise all the hard work and sacrifices we’ve made over the past year.

“Covid and its inevitable new variants are looking for any chinks in our armour, so we must keep our defences as strong as possible. This means following the rules, remembering ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’, getting tested regularly, having your vaccine and making sure you self-isolate and have a test if you have any of the key symptoms – a high temperature, change in taste or smell, and a new cough.”

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, reminded visitors to “book, respect, protect and enjoy”, not just for accommodation but also for dining out, attractions and activities. “By booking ahead, following the public health guidance and showing respect to the countryside and each other, we can all enjoy everything Cornwall has to offer” he said.

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