PUBS and clubs welcomed punters for the first time this year as one landlord spoke for many, saying: “It’s good to be back.”
Bar staff around Rotherham — and their customers — were raring to go after more than three months of forced closure, with drinkers invited to book in for a pint and a bite outside, table service in operation and all everyone required to sign in.
Emma Platts, manager of the Phoenix club at Brinsworth, said she and her staff were happy to be back together — and had been looking forward to seeing their members.
“At the beginning of the year, I was really worried that we were not going to make it, but the more we put on social media it blew me away,” she said.
“The response has been brilliant, so I'm a bit more hopeful we will be all right.
“We tend to cater more for the older generation, and we thought they might be quite cautious, but from the response, they were so excited to get back out and see people and be around their friends.
“For some of them, we can be the only people they see in a week and talk to.
“We have been excited to see them and they’re excited to see us too — to have a chat and a laugh.”
Emma said she had tried to keep spirits high among her staff, many of whom had befriended and checked up on their regulars, but admitted: “It has been awful being closed.”
Reopening this time has not meant as many changes for the Phoenix, which adapted last summer to restrictions by expanding its outside space.
But Emma said she would not breathe easily about the future until the limitations are further eased in May and beyond.
“It’s the not knowing that is hard — we just don't know what's coming next,” she said.
“It will be a lot better when we can get people back inside the club.
“Until then, I’m still a bit wary that everything will change again and the last year has affected us so much.
“Until we get to that point, I don’t think I'll be able to relax fully and enjoy the job. Hopefully things are getting better now.”
Parkgate-based Chantry Brewery has adapted to keep whistles wetted by expanding its home delivery service, but director Mick Warburton said he had been desperate to reopen the bar at the Cutler’s Arms — which was back in business on Monday (Chantry’s other town centre pub, the New York Tavern, will have to wait until May 17 as it has no outside space).
“You can’t beat a proper hand-pulled pint in a pub,” said Mick.
“It’s a really positive day and hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“I know people are desperate to get back to the pub and socialise, to see people they’ve not seen for a long time.
“A lot of our regulars come in on their own and they’ll want to see other people.
“All the staff have taken training in the Covid rules and we’ll be asking customers to check in on the app or to sign in.
“They’re all wanting to get back at it because for a lot of them it’s more than a job — some of them have other jobs and work here at the weekend, so this is a bit of normality. They are chomping at the bit.
“People have been desperate for a pint in the pub — and so have I.”