'Cautious optimism' - pubs, cafes and cinemas reopen in Lowestoft

chris widdowfield

Chris Widdowfield, who runs Cafe 11A on Grove Road, welcomed back his first customers indoors this year. - Credit: Jasper King

There was a feeling of cautious optimism in Lowestoft as pubs, cafes and cinemas reopened their doors.

For Chris Widdowfield, who runs Cafe 11A on Grove Road, the last few months have been difficult.

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Chris Widdowfield said it would take many small family-run businesses like his a long time to recover from the effects of the pandemic. - Credit: Jasper King

He said: "The lockdown has done some damage to us as a family and a business.

"People are still very nervous about coming out and while breakfast was busy, lunchtime has been very quiet.

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Mother and daughter, Jill Lock and Jean Tingey, enjoying their first coffee at Cafe 11A. - Credit: Jasper King

"I don't think it will be until end of June start of July until we start to see some kind of normality return for businesses but it is a make or break process for many at the moment."

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Lockdown easing also means pubs can now operate indoors and for new owners of the Stanford Arms, Toby Westgarth and Dominic Burke, this is already proving to be a learning curve.

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Dominic Burke (left) co-owner of the Stanford Arms standing with Joseph Marks who is the cellar manager. - Credit: Jasper King

Mr Burke said: "We are a little bit anxious and excited as well because it is hard for us to know what kind of interest there will be this week.

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"For those who don't want to sit indoors we are still concentrating our efforts on improving outside seating as well.

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Preparations underway to reopen the inside of the Stanford Arms, ready for this evening. - Credit: Jasper King

"I think the biggest change for us will come around in June when we no longer do table service because this is quite a labour intensive process.

"Capacity inside is reduced to abide by social distancing measures and to ensure we can manage it all."

Cinemas are also welcoming film goers back to the big screens.

Michael Hansell, director of East Coast Cinema, said he has noticed an increase in bookings to watch films at the cinema in comparison to when they reopened in December.

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Michael Hansell, director of East Coast Cinema, said demand to watch film has increased since the last lockdown. - Credit: Mick Howes

Mr Hansell said: "We feel confidence is much higher this time around and this is down to the vaccination programme.

"Back in December, people were not interested at all when we tried opening then, it just didn't work.

"This time around, our first performance for this evening is about to sell out so it is extremely exciting and we are proud we have managed to get this far.

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There is reduced seat capacity at the cinema. - Credit: Jasper King

"We have reduced capacity and won't sell more than 60 seats out of 190 and we have marked off areas.

"We have missed our regulars and can't wait to welcome back old friends."

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Pub goers enjoying their first pint inside at the Stanford Arms. - Credit: Toby Westgarth

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The eclectic drinks menu on offer at the Stanford Arms. - Credit: Toby Westgarth

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A pub goer enjoying a pint inside at the Stanford Arms. - Credit: Toby Westgarth

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