Pubs welcome punters back indoors for first time in months

17 May 2021, 06:10 | Updated: 17 May 2021, 07:04

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Pubs have already started welcoming punters back inside as indoor mixing restrictions in England were eased at midnight.

Customers enjoyed an indoor tipple at the Oak Inn in Coventry early on Monday morning for the first time in four months.

Roughly 100 people had gathered outside the venue as the pub welcomed drinkers back inside as the clock struck 12.

Owner Darren Lee said the opening had been "very well received" but not overly busy, adding that his locals were "really glad to be back inside - they're really up for it".

It comes as coronavirus restrictions in England, Wales and most parts of Scotland were eased on 17 May.

Mr Lee said he expected numbers to build throughout the day and into the evening as people finished work.

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Locals enjoy an indoor drink at Showtime Bar in Huddersfield
Locals enjoy an indoor drink at Showtime Bar in Huddersfield. Picture: PA
Friends hug for the first time in months inside the Oak Inn in Coventry
Friends hug for the first time in months inside the Oak Inn in Coventry. Picture: PA
Punters raise a glass together inside a pub for the first time in months
Punters raise a glass together inside a pub for the first time in months. Picture: PA

That hope was shared by Ian Snowball, the owner of Showtime Bar in Huddersfield, who acknowledged it was not as busy at his venue as when lockdown easing on 12 April allowed pub gardens to reopen.

"It's not as big as it was when we first opened in the garden, that was immense," he said.

"This is a bit of an anti-climax but I think it'll build up again - the anticipation isn't quite there like it was last time.

"But it's still good fun," he added.

Sat nearby was Finlay Woodhead, 20, who could barely contain his excitement at being back inside a pub.

"I'm over the moon, I've been waiting so long," he said.

"It's so nice to be sat inside where it's warm. I love it, honestly, I love it."

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Bar staff celebrate the indoor reopening of a pub in Huddersfield
Bar staff celebrate the indoor reopening of a pub in Huddersfield. Picture: PA
A group pose for a photo inside a pub in Coventry
A group pose for a photo inside a pub in Coventry. Picture: PA

Mr Snowball said he was hopeful his venue would not have to go into lockdown again, adding: "I think for people from the North, it's kind of special to us, a pub.

"There's an intimacy when we all get together, with our friends, and we talk."

It was much quieter in London, with most venues in the capital's south-west remaining closed ahead of an expected busy day of trading on Monday.

Heavy rain throughout the day on Sunday had eased by midnight, yet there was no sign of eager drinkers in Balham, Clapham and Brixton.

On Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted it was right to continue with the easing of restrictions despite concerns over the Indian coronavirus variant.