The 4th of July is probably a date marked on many calendars as the next stage in the re-opening of high streets across England as bars and restaurants start to welcome customers back.
There has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes to prepare premises and streets themselves for this next phase. Throughout the pandemic, taking things slowly and providing a safe environment has been the most important factor in all the plans.
Before heading out the advice is ‘Know before you go’ every business is different, and each has its own way to welcome back customers. It’s expected that 75 per cent of bars and restaurants will open on 4 July but their capacity will be greatly limited as social distancing measures remain in force.
Some businesses have already ‘sold out’ whilst others warn customers that no business will be a simple walk in. Entry will be via pre booking or queuing is expected.
Many businesses will be cashless and only accept contactless payment, customers are also being told to expect their names and addresses to be recorded as part of the track, test and trace measures to manage any future spikes in COVID-19.
Chester and Ellesmere Port Markets launch their new Al Fresco spaces on Saturday and after finding a table an order can be made in the market with the chosen trader, and most will bring orders to the table. Traders are also recommended to operate a ‘guestbook’ process to help with track and trace measures.
Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, said: “This weekend is going to be another major step towards bringing us all slightly closer to the familiar way of life we are used to.
“I know how much work has been going on and the success and safety is now in the hands of people coming out to enjoy themselves whilst respecting each other’s space.”
Social distancing remains at two metres, where this can’t be fully accommodated a one metre plus distance should be observed whilst also regularly washing hands and using facemasks.
Councillor Shore added: “Facemasks are now compulsory if you are using public transport, taxi drivers may also insist that a facemask is worn”
Chester’s multi-agency welcome team will be in the city centre offering guidance and reassurance. The team will be a first point of contact to help members of the public. Maintaining a safe and welcoming city centre is their priority.
Jenni Haken from Chester’s pub watch is looking forward to welcoming back customers: “The Chester hospitality sector is reopening this weekend after a very long, difficult break. Those of us who are opening are looking forward to welcoming customers back, albeit under heavy restrictions. If you are coming into town this weekend, get in touch with the places you want to visit to check their opening times and availability. Most of us have very limited capacity and places are filling up quickly. Please follow the guidelines in place - they're there to keep you and the staff safe.
“These next few weeks are going to be trial and error as we get back to work but we are all happy to be opening up and regaining some semblance of normality.”
Jackie Bird, Chief Nurse, NHS North West, said: “If you are going out this weekend, please remember the risk of coronavirus isn’t over, and for some people it can be fatal. Anyone can get the virus, anyone can spread it. The most important thing you can do is take precautions to keep yourself, your friends and your family safe. We are grateful for the huge level of public support shown for the NHS in recent months and we continue to ask for people’s understanding and help to keep our patients and staff safe.”
Superintendent Julie Westgate from Cheshire Police said: “I understand that it's been a difficult time for everyone, particularly young people, who are keen to go out and socialise with friends.
“I don’t want to spoil the fun and I want everyone to have a good time but please do so safely – it’s essential that everyone continues to remain vigilant and acts responsibly.
“If you are visiting bars and pubs this weekend, drink sensibly, and pre-plan your travel and how you are going to get home.
“The threat of coronavirus has not gone away and while pubs and restaurants are reopening, it is really important to remember that things will not simply go back to normal.
“Social distancing guidelines remain in place, meaning that capacity in all premises will be limited and people will need to plan ahead.”
A dedicated policing operation will be in place across the county and there will be an increased police presence in key areas throughout the weekend.
Supt Westgate added: “Officers will be patrolling key locations and we will be dealing with any incidents of crime and disorder, while our local authority partners will deal with any licensing issues.
“We will continue to use common sense and discretion to determine what is reasonable, with officers engaging, explaining, encouraging and, only as a last resort, enforcing.
“I would like to take this opportunity to remind people we cannot enforce social distancing and are relying on your good nature to follow the guidance.
“Keep in mind the purpose of the remaining regulations and the national effort and by following the guidance and working together we can all help to protect the NHS and save lives.”