The borough’s bars, pubs and restaurants are happy to be back in business, with the majority of customers on their best behaviour since the first re-openings on 4 July.

Venues across the borough are reporting strong trade, big numbers of returning customers and an increase in new business, despite operating at reduced capacity due to the remaining coronavirus restrictions, which are designed to keep people safe and stop the spread of the disease.

Al-fresco dining is proving popular, with new tables being placed outside many pubs and eateries.

The Hare on the Hill in Littleborough has slightly reduced its seating capacity and added outdoor shelters but has quickly seen trade returning to pre-lockdown levels since re-opening last week said server Adam Sweeney: “It’s all table service now and we’re totally cashless so there have been changes, but we’ve had great feedback from customers. As we’re a relatively small venue we didn’t know how it would go, but we’ve had a lot of people telling us we’re the first pub they’ve tried since lockdown and us being small was one of the reasons they visited. I think the changes we’ve made suit the place well, a bit of a home from home and our outdoor seating area still looks stylish.”

Over in Rochdale town centre, The Flying Horse Hotel, voted Greater Manchester’s best pub by CAMRA for the last two years running is enjoying a renaissance along with other popular venues along Packer Street.  The street has been transformed by Rochdale Borough Council into a pedestrianised continental-style outdoor dining area also serving customers of The Empire, Yate’s and Ko Ko’s. Flying Horse owner Ben Boothman said having the large covered outdoor area made it possible to re-open, and the response so far has been fantastic: “A lot of regulars returned straight away and they have been reassuring others who were maybe more cautious about the measures we’ve put in place, so it’s been busy. Although we were selling takeaway bottles and cans during lockdown there’s nothing like a proper draught pint. Dining numbers have really increased and we’re also seeing new faces too.”

Inside and outside The Flying Horse it’s all now seated table service, with customers able to order food and drink via an app.  Tables can be booked in advance online but booking isn’t essential with walk-ups still very welcome added Ben: “We’re serving a new takeout style food menu outside all with eco-friendly disposable cutlery and packaging and we’re planning some special food takeover events with local suppliers over the summer, making the most of the situation and hopefully the sunshine.”  

At the renowned fine dining venue Nutters Restaurant in Norden, service has very successfully resumed, with new safety measures in place and an improved layout to help with social distancing. Local star chef and owner Andrew Nutter said: “It’s great to be back.  Working to government guidelines and closely with the council we’ve taken all the necessary steps, with sanitation stations, two metres between tables, brasserie style menus and taking details for the test and trace service.  I feel we’ve gone above and beyond to ensure public safety and of course it’s really important to have that trust from our customers.”

Finding the balance between keeping everything safe while creating a welcoming environment was the key ingredient, added Andrew: “We want our diners to feel relaxed while enjoying fantastic food and drink. Feedback so far has been humbling and makes it all worthwhile. Yes it’s a difficult time for the hospitality industry but hopefully we can set the standards, strike the right balance and carry on, keeping our customers safe and happy.”

Two weeks after lockdown restrictions on the hospitality sector eased, councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for regeneration, business, skills & employment is reminding everyone of the importance of social distancing: “The vast majority of those out socialising in the borough have been behaving responsibly, sticking to the government guidance, but there are still a minority who think the rules don’t apply to them. Everyone has a responsibility to themselves and to others and now is not the time to be complacent.  Getting our bars, pubs and restaurants back open safely has been a huge team effort and I’m really pleased how everyone has worked together to make this happen.  I’d like to thank all the council licensing officers, the Business Improvement District (BID) team in Rochdale town centre as well as our colleagues at Greater Manchester Police and the fire service. We must make the efforts worthwhile and keep acting responsibly to avoid an increase in cases or a local lockdown.”

Council officers and Greater Manchester Police have stepped up patrols are looking at ways to continually assist venues. From verbal advice to visible patrols at weekends. “We all have a role to play to protect ourselves, families and neighbours. Coronavirus is still in circulation, so stay local where you can and take care.” Added councillor Blundell.

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