It was an Independence Day of an altogether different kind across Wearside as hotels, pubs and restaurants re-opened their doors for the first time since the March Lockdown last Saturday, July 4.
With pre-bookings required, no queuing at the bar, social distancing and service to the table it was a very new kind of normal for the paying punter but would there be any early, short-term boost for the hard-pressed Wear economy as a result?
Here, those in the hospitality trade and related business give their thoughts on what economic impacts and benefits will be felt across Wearside in the short-term, as well as noting the longer-term challenges.
We asked them, what difference will the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hotels start making to the economy across Wearside in the short-term?
Sandra Devlin, business development manager, George Washington Hotel Golf Club and Spa
No-one is expecting pubs, restaurants and hotels to simply pick up right now from where they left-off before Covid_19 hit.
It is going to take a while before we see numbers really starting to return but in the short-term it gives everyone a boost that this nightmare might be starting to come to an end and people are now starting to tentatively book and spend again.
Just before the pandemic, The George Washington was celebrating upticks in every box and morale and optimism was sky-high.
Covid_19 has taken the wind out of everyone’s sails, (and sales!), but as a team we’ve reminded ourselves of how much progress we’d made over the previous 12 months so we’re all motivated to get back to that level again.”
Rico Liverani, director, DCS Payroll Agency, Sunderland
There’s no doubt there will be winners and losers from the re-opening because it is simply not ‘business as usual’ for so many venues in the hospitality industry.
All the Covid_19 restrictions also mean restrictions on profits but some hospitality outlets will be able to cope better than others.
The ones that have the best chance of short-term success are the pubs with big beer gardens, the hotels with grounds and the more spacious restaurants whose layout is best suited to the new rules.
The ones that really have the challenges are those venues whose smallness and intimacy has been part of their charm and attraction.
Economically, the re-opening will help businesses across Wearside in the short-term with hopefully more and more benefits over time.
But we also have to watch for further setbacks because while the Government’s ‘flexi-furlough’ scheme is a response to that potential situation, it is very complex and will be difficult for many businesses to implement without expert guidance.
Tim Ford, owner, Live Well Training, Sunderland
I suppose everyone will be focused on how much revenue is generated by paying customers in the short-term and in terms of that, the takings are likely to be down by an awful lot.
But I think we shouldn’t lose sight of the hundreds and thousands of people across Wearside who will be going back to work in these pubs, restaurants and hotels.
There will be a lot of people who are now back at work and earning again and that’s likely to make a big difference to the spending power
So even if the re-opening doesn’t mean immediate profits for the businesses, the Wear economy will still get a boost from people resuming employment.
Mick Shotton, owner, Essential Design, Washington
It’s great news that pubs, hotels and restaurants have started re-opening across Wearside and in the short-term, I suppose we all have to wish for a lovely, sunny summer so that all the beer-gardens and the outdoor spaces become viable.
It will be a different experience in many ways and that will take some getting used to but there are upsides to everything – people won’t miss having to queue at the bar to get served and having someone delivering food and drink to your tables in pubs will have a very continental feel to it.
In the short-term, it will just be good for public confidence to see these places open again.
There’s a lot of anxiety out there to be overcome if the local economy is to really start coming back and in the short-term, just seeing doors opening and all these precautions in place is going to be reassuring.