The landlord of one of Oxford’s oldest pubs said he was delighted to welcome back drinkers and is hoping there will not be a fourth lockdown.
Pubs across Oxfordshire have been hit financially by repeated lockdowns over the past 12 months due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Lamb & Flag in St Giles, one of the city’s oldest pubs, was closed by St John’s College in January, due to a lack of trade during the pandemic.
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James Vermede, landlord of The Bear Inn in Alfred Street, said the hostelry had been busy since Monday, when pubs were allowed to reopen outside, according to the Government’s easing of lockdown restrictions.
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Pubs are scheduled to be allowed to reopen inside from Monday, May 17.
Mr Vermede added: “It’s been very difficult over the past 12 months so it’s good to be back.
“We had a good spell in the summer last year and we hope it will be even better this time round and that there won’t be another lockdown.
“It was snowing on Monday but that didn’t keep people away – we were busy all day.”
The landlord said the pub had space to seat 95 people outdoors.
He added: “You couldn’t fit 95 people inside – it’s too small.
“We have 10 tables inside our marquee and another eight tables outside it.”
Mr Vermede said he was glad to be able to welcome back drinkers who have been sticking to the latest guidelines to combat the coronavirus.
He added: “Everyone has been behaving very sensibly since we reopened.”
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Dave Richardson, spokesman for Oxford CAMRA, said the real ale group was very pleased with the number of pubs in Oxford opening outside space this week, and that they had been reasonably busy since Monday and were strongly booked at the weekend.
“I would say that about half of pubs are open in the city centre, where a good number have gardens or pavement seating,” he said.
“It’s the same in North Oxford, where North Parade Avenue has been pedestrianised, and around St Clements, Headington and Wolvercote. Pubs are showing a real determination to get back to business and reconnect with their customers, and they deserve all our support if they are to survive.
“We look forward to George Street being closed to traffic as it was last summer, which will allow more pubs and other hospitality businesses to open. It is noticeable that many of the pubs that are open are independent businesses, but well done to Fuller’s for opening The Bear Inn and Head of the River, and to Nicholson’s for reopening the Chequers and the Crown.”
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Mr Richardson said the ‘no-show rate’ at some pubs has been very high, so they have stopped taking reservations. He added: “Many more pubs will re-open when indoor trading is allowed but we should not forget that many pubs are teetering on the brink and some did not reopen at all last year after the pandemic first hit. We really must use them or lose them.”
Restrictions have changed since pubs were last open. People don’t need to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks – and there is no 10pm curfew.