Sheffielders rejoice as pubs, restaurants and cafes return to indoor trading
“It’s pretty damn crazy, given the wild ride that we’ve had over the past six months or so.” – Customers were pleased to be back as indoor hospitality made a return today, on May 17.
Today (May 17) marked the next phase Covid measures easing under stage 3 of the roadmap plan, giving people more freedom to socialise and return to indoor hospitality venues.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke at a televised press conference last Monday and gave the green light for the third step of the roadmap plan out of lockdown to commence.
Under Step three of the lockdown roadmap, "all but the most high-risk sectors will be able to reopen" as of May 17, as the UK's Covid alert level was downgraded from 4 to 3.
The news means people will be allowed to eat and drink indoors at pubs and restaurants, and cinemas will be able to open once again for film screenings.
Gatherings inside homes are allowed once again with a limit of up to six people or groups from a maximum of two households, and up to 30 people will legally be allowed to gather outdoors.
People will be given a choice to remain two metres from family or friends, meaning they can once again hug and shake hands.
The Prime Minister thanked the nation for the "sacrifice" made during the lockdown but warned that this does not mean “we can suddenly throw caution to the winds.”
Mr Johnson said: “In fact, more than a year into this pandemic, we all know that close contact, such as hugging, is a direct way of transmitting this disease.
“So I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones – whether they have had a vaccine, one or two doses, and whether there has been time for that vaccine to take effect.
“Remember outdoors is always safer than indoors. And if you are meeting indoors, remember to open a window and let in the fresh air.”
Hospitality venues and people across the city have been waiting in anticipation for the May 17 date, which is arguably the most significant step in the roadmap plan out of lockdown so far.
Major venues have reopened to residents today, including the Showroom Cinema, which has seen a steady stream of customers back through its doors.
The largest independent cinema in South Yorkshire confirmed its reopening plans in recent weeks with CEO Ian Wild 'thankful' for the 'loyal' audience and government grants, saying that without them they would have "been in a very different position."
We spoke to some audiences returning to the cinema to find out how their experience was visiting the cinema for the first time in months.
Andy Gray said: “I’ve been waiting for this since lockdown started because I’m sort of the person that comes more than once a week. "I’ve been gagging for it. I booked the day off work today just to come and watch films all day; I’m really excited.
“It’s the place I come to escape, and during the past few months, we’ve all needed somewhere to escape, and my place hasn’t been open.
He added: “The showroom is a place where you can see things that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in Sheffield. I go to the Odeon a lot as well to see the big films, but as a film fan, I want to see films of all kinds.”
Another cinema goer, Russell Jones, said it was nice to be back and believes that cinemas should not have closed.
He said: “I don’t think they should have shut, to be honest, gyms and cinemas should not have closed because people need them.
He added: “I just like independent cinema. I’ve got a unique sensibility when it comes to films, so I like to see things that are a bit different and will take me on a journey.”
Gabrielle Latham said: “We’re hoping it’s going to be brilliant, we love the cinema, and we made sure that we booked for the first showing that was on today so we could get in there as soon as possible.”
Speaking about why she enjoys independent cinema, she said: “You see something different that you might not see in the mainstream, and it really provokes thoughts and kind of changes you more than seeing a normal film.”
Elaine Dacey said: “It’s nice to have something planned; I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice that things are easing up a bit.”
Speaking about the new atmosphere in the cinema she said: “We’ve been coming into town a lot anyway, so we’re not feeling nervous, we’re just looking forward to seeing the film, especially with the weather today, it just feels like another day.
“We used to come here quite regularly, especially on a Thursday, because it was like a club for older people.
“Sometimes they show things which are a bit different, and I really like the venue as well, that’s the main thing I think. It’s very friendly hospitable, and not too big and personal.”
True North Co has opened up their pubs today, including the Old House and The Common room as well as others across the city.
On April 12, they opened beer gardens at a few of their sites, including the Riverside in Kelham, and the Broadfield on Abbeydale Road as well as the Forum Bar and Kitchen, although customers are now able to enjoy indoor hospitality.
We spoke to pub-goers at the Forum Bar and Kitchen who were glad to be back indoors, away from the unpleasant weather outside.
Eden Hussain said: “We probably wouldn’t be out if it was still raining like it was earlier. When the beer gardens were open, it just gets cold at a certain point. It’s good up until about 8 pm.
“Until 21st June, I don't think it’s that big of a difference because for students you still can’t make friends. When you come out everyone is on a table of six; you have to pick the six people that you are going with, which makes it really complicated, who’s going and who is not.”
Jack Barrott said: “In all the outside areas, you are sat on a stool, but in here, it’s nice to be able to relax, sit down and sit back.”
Luke Dunford said: “It’s pretty damn crazy, given the wild ride that we’ve had over the past six months or so, I just like having a roof over my warm, it’s warm, not having to stay in the wet, it’s pretty damn good.”
Speaking about the beer gardens, he said: “I visited a few, but obviously there were weather-related constraints and also temperature-related constraints. As good as it was to have the beer gardens open, there wasn’t really any motivation to go because I could have just got some tins and sit in the park or something.
He added: “I think going forward, we’re just going to hit the boozers. Around Kelham island is a personal favourite of mine; it’s very posh and boujee.”
Despite the reopenings today, there are still many concerns and doubts about the rest of the roadmap plan going accordingly as the Indian Covid variant sweeps across the country.
Sarah Nuttal said: “Looking forward to about two weeks of freedom before restrictions are back in place again, unfortunately, due to the fact Boris didn’t heed the warnings about the exponential growth of the Indian variant and act sooner to put India in the red list.
Wayne Marshall agreed, saying: “Sadly, that is the way I see it going as well. We should get used to this happening. Boris keeps saying we will have to start living with the Virus and carry on living a normal life, then he changes his mind and puts us into lockdown.”