Rob Hattersley took over hotel and restaurant The Maynard, in Grindleford, in January 2020, weeks before the country went into its first full national lockdown when Covid-19 hit the UK.
"It's been probably the most stressful year of my life,” said Rob, the venue’s managing director. “They say opening your own business is always stressful, but even more so when you open it just before a global pandemic. We had a month of normality in February 2020, but we've never operated without restrictions.”
Step one of the roadmap, starting on March 8, continues to restrict weddings to a maximum of six attendees. Then, from April 12, ceremonies and receptions can happen with up to 15 people present, but only at premises permitted to open at that point.
The Maynard can plan to host larger weddings from May 17, the date when events for up to 30 people can begin to take place, with June 21 the day social distancing will be relaxed with no limits on numbers.
Rob said the picture from June onwards looked ‘fantastic’, but confusion surrounded the prospects for April.
"It says weddings can take place for up to 15 people as of April 12 in permitted venues, but we have no idea what that looks like,” he said. “Which are permitted venues, is it outside or inside? There's been no further guidance on that.”
However, Rob said couples were ‘so keen to get going’.
“There's a lot of optimism and a lot of hope. I think people are ready to go back to normality.”
February 23 – the day after Boris Johnson set out the roadmap – was The Maynard’s ‘busiest day on the phones for a long, long time’, said Rob.
“Lots of our guests who have weddings booked in May and June, and some in April as well, are wanting to move their dates so they can get the amount of people they want without restrictions. We've got people from other venues where their weddings have been cancelled on them, and can't get back in until a much later date or been given a day of the week that doesn't suit them, looking for alternative venues.”
Rob said he found himself in a ‘fortunate-stroke-unfortunate’ situation last year, as The Maynard’s previous owners had cancelled all of the venue’s booked weddings in the sale of the business.
“I didn't have many weddings to move when the first lockdown hit,” he said. “We're benefiting because we had a lot of availability in the diary anyway.”
The biggest problem for couples, he said, was ‘co-ordinating everything’. “It's trying to get dates with the registrar that fit our diary, and a lot of them are set on suppliers – for example, they might want a particular photographer.”
But he said he felt ‘so excited’ at the thought of seeing The Maynard finally operating as it should.
“We've had chance to re-do the hotel. We've put in nine new bedrooms as well as refurbishing the other ones. We're ready to go.”