Hospitality sector profit from lifting of restrictions

INDOOR attractions, eateries and pubs across the conurbation have welcomed customers through their doors as yet more lockdown restriction were eased on Monday.

The lifting of many government restrictions means that people can now socialise indoors in limited numbers, hug loved ones and visit pubs and restaurants inside.

The ban on foreign travel has also been lifted and replaced with new rules, although caution has been urges by PM Boris Johnson amidst growing concerns over the Indian variant of the Covid-19 virus.

In Bournemouth, the last step along the government’s roadmap out of lockdown meant a huge boost for the hospitality and entertainment sector in particular.

The Oceanarium on Bournemouth seafront opened for the first time since December and enjoyed its first proper day of trading since October half term.

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Director James Eels said: “It is great to be back open again.

“We are cautiously open. Friday’s news about the Indian variant has casted a bit of doubt certainly among staff here but we will react to it just as we have done previously.

“We didn’t have any recorded transmissions across our visitors and staff during the pandemic so far and we have done everything that we can to ensure our visitors are safe.”

Although some of the venue’s facilities such as its children’s play area, demonstrations and educations groups are not in operation, visitor to the Oceanarium can enjoy the mahjhority of the indoor attraction’s offerings in a safe manner.

Mr Eels added: “We have managed to survive the many months that we were closed because we were cautious. The attractions actually benefits from us being relatively stubborn in our approach. Even last year, we didn’t make a loss.

“Even when we were closed, we still had to have six or seven members of staff feeding our animals and ensuring their enclosures were clean because animals still the same amount and they still require the same amount of heating and ventilation if there are visitors or not.

“We just want to say that people are welcome to come back and visit us again. We have a proven track record, and all of our previous precautions are still in place to ensure people’s safety. If people want to be extra cautious, I would advise visiting us after 3pm and avoid weekends and bank holidays if possible.

“We are working at around 50 per cent capacity so you will still be able to keep your distance when inside our venue.”

Whilst venues like the Russel Cotes Museum were making last minute preparations for their opening tomorrow, the Odeon opened for customers at 2.45pm for its first showing at 3pm which was Peter Rabbit 2.

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Another venue to open its doors again was Mulligans, an indoor adventure golf venue in the BH2 complex.

General manager Pascal Longhurst said: “It is absolutely fantastic to be welcoming customers again, we have all been really looking forward to this day.

“One of our main attraction to people is that they can play and take a drink around the holes with them but, right now, we can allow that as people need to be wearing masks.

“People can play with in a group of six or within two households. They will be given their own ball and putter as usual, but these are cleaned thoroughly after each customer.

“We are fortunate enough that we do have a big space so groups can socially distance from one another. A lot of our rules are similar to when we were open during the previous lifting of restrictions so we have a tried and tested approach so customers can take comfort in that.”

Many independent restaurants and cafes across the area through open their doors for locals and visitors.

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Manager of South Coast Roast Justin Cambray said: “About three or four weeks ago, we were quite nervous about reopening but yesterday, we had some of the team in to get ready for today and there was so much excitement about welcoming customers back inside the café.

“What I have missed personally is the sound of the coffee grinder going with the background noise of people talking and glasses and cups chinking on saucers. It is not the same with takeaway cups.

“Although we are still missing some of our regular customers as some of the offices in the town and up the hill from where we are aren’t open at the moment, we do have a loyal customer base, so we are looking forward to seeing them all again in the coming days.”

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Morgan House – Operations Manager for The Larder House owned sites in Southbourne added: “We had a team tasting day last Saturday and we established then that it had been 142 days since we were last opened, which is crazy when you think about it.

“Even though a lot of businesses on the high street have been closed up until now, Southbourne has been busy as there have been a lot of businesses opening during the lockdown which is great to see. The Wight Bear has changed ownership and our tapas bar is open on Wednesday which is really exciting as well.

“I came to work at 8.30am this morning and there was a noticeable increase in traffic along the high street this morning. Obviously, there are people going to work and parents dropping kids at school but there was one lady who was walking on the high street who said that she just wanted to soak up the atmosphere of the high street slowly returning to normal.

“We are all excited, we just want to get back to seeing people coming through the door again.”

The new owners of the Wight bear in Sourthbourne, Simon Bentley, Tracy Sturt and their two sons, enjoyed welcoming customers inside their pub for the first time since December, where they opened for 10 days over the month before closing.

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Simon said: “It is a real relief to be back open again; it is just nice to see people’s faces.

“From January, we were doing deliveries and just tried to make things exciting every week. It wasn’t a struggle as we had started teaming up with businesses to do themed packages for people.

“We did one for the Six Nations where we provided the drinks in cans you fill up with a drink of your choice and food provided by Ricky’s which went down really well.”

A former manager for bands and artists for 20 years, Simoin wants to bring some live music into the pub, as well as supporting other local businesses and entrepenaeurs.

He added: “As we were closed for five months, it gave us a chance to really focus on renovations work, stuff we would have struggled to do if we were still open. The snug has been completely overhauled and we now have some interesting toilet facilities.

“The Wight Bear has been here for over five years and has become a really popular community hub in the village.

“We have tried to take that amazing legacy that David and Nicole have left and take it forward.”

Tuckton Tea Gardens, on the banks of the River Stour, also enjoyed its fi5rst day of trading since its extension and renovation work.

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Operations Manger Jason Giddings said: “It has been OK; it was a slow start but picked up more in the afternoon. Social media has helped us a lot

“With the weather that we have had over the last couple of months, we used to put up a marquee for our outdoor seating, but we have had our fair shar of anti-social behaviour with kids wrecking it, so we are glad to be opening our café.

“We used the furlough scheme which helped us a lot as it meant that we could still keep our staff, and we have used the lockdown to develop the site and expand. It took slightly longer than expected but we are pleased that we have got the finished that we wanted.

“We have some events coming up, but dates haven’t been confirmed yet. We are going to be doing some type of barbecue cruise with our chefs and our boats which should be a lot of fun.

“We are just happy to be open again and to be having our staff and customers back again.”

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