Joy across West Berkshire as customers are welcomed back inside for the first time this year
WEST Berkshire’s pubs, restaurants and hotels were among those businesses welcoming customers back inside for the first time in five months as indoor hospitality resumed in England on Monday.
This week, people have been celebrating being able to finally sit down for a meal and sip a cold pint in the warm with friends after six weeks of al fresco dining in less than ideal weather.
The publicans of The Monument in Newbury – Neal Anderson and Amy Siddons - were all smiles as they served punters for the first time since December 16.
Mr Anderson, who has been behind the bar for 13 years in September, said: “It has been great to see so many of our regulars again after all this time.
“People have been very understanding and respectful of the rules, which has made our job a lot easier.
“It’s definitely good to be back. The customers have missed it and I know I have too.”
During the past five months, Mr Anderson and Miss Siddons have been busy redecorating the outside courtyard and bringing in a selection of new gins and beers ready for reopening.
Miss Siddons added: “It’s been so nice. I have had customers come in with a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates.
“We have really missed our friends. That’s what they are to us. They aren’t just our customers, they are our friends too.
“Five months has been a long time not to see them for.”
Sunita Shemar, owner of Numee - an independent family-run coffee shop in Wash Common - was also pleased to welcome customers indoors again this week.
"I am feeling great and the staff are really excited," she said. "It has been a tough year for us. We are a relatively small business and we had our two year anniversary in January so we have spent as much time in lockdown as we have open.
"We have tried to stay open by offering take-aways and we have tried to cater for what we thought out customers would want."
The shop, which Mrs Shemar said was "foodie focussed", had started hosting monthly Supper Clubs before lockdown and began offering a similar experience, just in take-away form, this year in a bid to "ride out the pandemic".
Mrs Shemar, who had her second child just six months ago, added: "I know a lot of our customers locally with small babies have struggled to get out, so it's nice to be open for young mums to have somewhere to go.
"We have had lots of customers supporting us, but it has been challenging.
"It's nice to see people in the shop again and to have a little buzz about and a little sense of normality."
Indoor organised sport and exercise classes have been able to restart, while cinemas and theatres have also welcomed back visitors this week.
Children's soft play areas, bowling alleys and pool halls are among other venues finally reopening too, but nightclubs must currently remain closed.