'Raring to go': Town's businesses ready for end of lockdown
- Credit: Victoria Pertusa
For many local businesses, Wednesday marks the start of the festive rush, with shops, pubs and restaurants officially able to reopen their doors to the public at the end of the second national lockdown.
In Lowestoft, the new dawn has been "cautiously" welcomed by those preparing to dust off the tables and refill the hand sanitiser as the town, and the rest of the east of England, prepare to enter tier two of the government's latest lockdown restrictions.
"We will basically be running five restaurants, but we are cautiously optimistic and will give it a go."
Andrew Rogers, part of the management group at Moss and Co, confirmed they would reopen five of their seven venues in Waveney - The Angel Inn at Wangford, The Bell Inn in Carlton Colville, The Commodore in Oulton Broad, The Jolly Sailors in Pakefield and The Village Maid in Lound.
The Lady of the Lake, the latest addition to the company's portfolio, and The Waveney, both in Oulton Broad, will remain closed for now, with the group monitoring the situation closely.
The company put all 131 members of staff on furlough at the start of the second national lockdown, with around 100 now set to return for the five reopenings.
Mr Rogers said: "We will basically be running five restaurants, but we are cautiously optimistic and will give it a go.
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"We will have cheaper menus for people who mainly want to come for a drink, but the big rule for us is the one household per table limit.
"That is what has clinched it for other pubs to stay shut, because people rarely go out in their households to watch sport for example, they go with friends, and especially around Christmas.
"We are really, really hoping and really need the government to move us into tier one for at least the last 12 days of Christmas so we can get a little bit of money in the bank before the usual drop off in January."
With renovations and "licks of paint" inside and out during the four-week closure, Mr Rogers is hoping for a positive return for customers.
He said: "We have amazing, loyal customers and we are sure they understand how hard things are right now.
"We just need people to come out and see we have made things Covid-safe.
"We are following the guidelines, even though we aren't given them until the last minute.
"It might take a week or so like when the last lockdown ended, but we are confident we will have a good response."
"I can only cross my fingers and hope it is the start of Christmas shopping."
Denise Gilbert, owner of PJ Gillman jewellers on London Road North, has welcomed the return to business, and hopes Wednesday will see the start of the Christmas rush.
She said: "We are excited to reopen. It was such a shock to be shut down so quickly in the first place.
"I have been busy with social media and we have had lots of people reserve things who have been waiting patiently to collect them.
"I can only cross my fingers and hope it is the start of Christmas shopping. For us, this time of year is usually the busiest."
Mrs Gilbert also urged residents to shop local and back their town's businesses this Christmas.
She said: "It is a case of use it or lose it.
"We are lucky we do repairs because we have had a lot of enquiries, and people were spending money in the summer so I can't complain there, but who knows what it will be like this time.
"A lot of it depends on whether people feel safe. We are small and intimate and only allow a couple of people at a time."
"It would be nice if we could open for Christmas, but it isn't an option and isn't viable."
While the end of lockdown will see diners welcomed back into many restaurants across the region, JoJo's Kitchen and Bar will continue to focus solely, and expand, on their takeaway options, with plans for a second 'hub' in south Lowestoft in progress.
Owner Kelly Scott said: "We haven't had customers in the restaurant since March. When we could reopen in the summer, we decided it was probably for the best not do because we are a fairly small venue.
"Luckily for us, it isn't a do-or-die situation. We have a good social media following and that allowed us to start doing takeaways and collections.
"Two days after we were closed, we were up and running with takeaways so we never stopped.
"We love the restaurant life, that's what interested us in the first place, but we have to adapt.
"It would be nice if we could open for Christmas, but it isn't an option and isn't viable.
"If we are honest, especially with the mixing at Christmas, we would probably have to close again in January for the third wave, so it isn't worth it for us."
"Can't wait to give our support to our struggling, local pubs."
Residents in the town, however, remain divided about the easing of restrictions when asked whether they plan on returning to shops, pubs and restaurants when restrictions are eased.
On the Lowestoft Journal Facebook page, Coral Sherwood said: "No, because it is not worth just one pint", while Ray Birnie said: "Yes, can't wait to give our support to our struggling, local pubs."
Lisa Hannant urged people to support local businesses, saying: "If people don't, they won't survive. They need the support of as many people as possible to save them.
"As long as rules are followed it's no different to going in shops that have been open."
Others, however, were less eager. Joanna Wright said: "Nope, because the shops just aren't worth visiting anymore. There are more closed than open even before lockdown, so you can't use that as an excuse."
Coral Sherwood said: "No, because it is not worth just one pint."
Louise Connellan said she felt uncomfortable in some places. She said: "Some yes, others no. Too many people are struggling with social distancing and I don't feel comfortable.
"I've walked out of shops, abandoning my shopping as people have been so close and got aggressive when I've asked for space.
"I'll continue my local shopping and maybe go to a local coffee shop I trust, but no chains for me."