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West Berkshire is ready to reopen after third national lockdown

The Dolphin pub in Bartholomew Street, Newbury is preparing to reopen today (Monday)
The Dolphin pub in Bartholomew Street, Newbury is preparing to reopen today (Monday)

HAIRDRESSERS, pubs, gyms and non-essential shops are preparing to reopen for the first time this year following the easing of coronavirus restrictions – and say they can’t wait to start welcoming people back.

Many businesses, large and small, will be fighting for survival when they open their doors for the first time in more than three months on Monday and residents are being urged to help support them as they emerge from the third national lockdown.

Pub operator at The Dolphin, on Bartholomew Street in Newbury, Ed Turner, said he was excited for the big day and they planned to continue with their regular food offering.

“We are delighted about being able to welcome everyone back to The Dolphin,” he said.

“Our chefs are preparing our menus ready to plate-up fresh, seasonal produce for our guests as they enjoy the spring sunshine in our garden and, at last, the beer taps will be flowing once more.

“We want to assure our guests that the health and safety of our staff and customers is our top priority and has been paramount throughout our re-opening processes and procedures.”

Aaron Daws, the owner of 2112 Barbers in Newbury’s Parkway Shopping centre said: “I haven’t cut anyone’s hair since last October.

“It has been such a long, long wait.

“The craft is something I’m passionate about.

“When you really love what you do it’s very difficult to be away from it for so long.

“I can’t wait until next week.”

BstFitness in Newbury is also getting ready to open its doors again after a long five months away.

Safety measures in the gym are the same as in the autumn, with bottles of disinfectant mounted on the walls and floor markings and taped-off machines ensuring social distancing.

Clients will also have to book slots ahead of time.

General manager Lewis Freeman said: “We’re testing everything and ensuring we’ve sent out all our member communications.

“Safety measures are the same as before – we’ve opened up the changing rooms a bit more so people can use the showers.

“Unfortunately we can’t offer classes until May 17, but our staff are champing at the bit to reopen.”

Michelin-star restaurant The Blackbird at Bagnor is creating a new outdoor restaurant called Pizza Paloma which, as the name suggests, will serve a range of pizzas and side dishes.

The restaurant is under a covered area, complete with heaters, and can accommodate up to 60 people.

A new outdoor toilet block has also been installed.

Owner and head chef Dom Robinson said: “We’ve only been able to open The Blackbird for seven weeks out of the last year which has been massively frustrating.

“We are keeping the main restaurant closed until August and for all intents and purposes Pizza Paloma will be an entirely separate restaurant.

“I can’t wait to welcome people back and get back to some sort of normality.”

Another village pub, the White Hart in Hamstead Marshall, will reopen for celebratory drinks and canapes under the outdoor gazebo from 4pm to 8pm on Monday.

The pub will then reopen every Friday and Saturday (noon until 8pm) and Sunday (noon until 5pm) until mid-May, when they hope to welcome people back inside.

Publican Stella Coulthurst said: “We’ve got the cushions and the blankets at the ready and we can’t wait to see everyone again.”

The Newbury Business Improvement District (BID) has launched a ‘Re-Visit Newbury’ campaign to encourage people to embrace the town centre’s shops and services, pubs, restaurants and cafés, and leisure facilities.

As well as non-essential retailers, hair and beauty salons and gyms reopening, the BID said there were more than 15 town centre hospitality venues that would be opening up for outside table service next week.

Newbury BID chief executive Melissa Hughes said: “The businesses of Newbury town centre have worked incredibly hard to prepare for a safe and successful reopening from April 12.

“The hospitality sector in particular has been one of the worst-hit industries throughout the pandemic, and we have done everything we can at the BID to try and help as many town centre venues open for outdoor service.

“Unfortunately, not all businesses will be able to do so, but it’s so important that we all play our part in helping those that can by supporting our wonderful local businesses.”

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