"We've all come through it" -This is what people had to say about freedom day in Sheffield
Sheffielders were busy visiting the city’s pubs, restaurants and bars, as coronavirus restrictions were lifted following 16 months of constraints and lockdowns.
Physical reminders of the pandemic such as screens between tables and signs informing customers of the correct way to move through a venue were removed in several Sheffield establishments as the country’s hospitality industry opened up.
Leopold Square restaurant Pho opened for the first time just a month before the first national lockdown, and its owners have used freedom day as an official re-launch. They marked the occasion by giving away pho noodle soups, curries and beers to diners who redeemed vouchers given out with their flyers distributed across the city centre.
Pho’s Marketing Manager, Malachy O'Keeffe, said of freedom day: “We’ve had several lockdowns and closures and we’ve obviously had a difficult year with lockdowns, people only being allowed to dine outside and only being able to operate as a takeaway. So today marks the first time since March 2020 that we’ve been allowed to open to full capacity and we’re celebrating that with the people of Sheffield by giving away free pho, free curries and free beer.”
"It’s to say thank you to the people who have stuck with us, and we hope we won’t be closed down any time soon,” he added.
Landlady of traditional Irish pub, The Grapes Inn, Ann Flynn, said she thought some of her regulars would enjoy being able to come to the bar again, but did not foresee things changing too much.
"I think people feel safe coming in here, but I don’t think freedom day’s going to make a lot of difference to us. People still aren’t in their offices in the city centre. I think people’s social habits have changed, and they have been since before Covid,” said Ann, adding that the Grapes is a “locals pub,” something that appears to have served them well over the last few months.
She continued by saying that while they would not continue with table service, the change to more people sitting at tables, as opposed to at the bar, had been good for business and said she hoped it would continue.
Grapes barmaid, and Ann’s daughter-in-law, Geraldine Flynn said that the pub was a “community” for a lot of people and hopes customers will still feel comfortable with coming in now that most restrictions have been lifted.
Despite living in Retford, Nottinghamshire, Nikki Grayson, is a regular at The Grapes, which is a home-away-from-home for her and her family who normally make the trip to Sheffield to visit the Trippet Lane boozer once a month.
She visited with her dad, two uncles, cousin and family friend on freedom day, marking the group’s second outing to The Grapes since the pandemic began.
"We’ve been coming to The Grapes for many years now, and Ann and her team run a fantastic pub here and were very safe during the Covid,” said Nikki.
Nikki’s dad, Colin Grayson, added: “We’re glad to be back, we’re glad it’s freedom day...Good luck to everyone, we’ve all come through it. We’ve got a difficult patch here on out but let’s just be sensible.”
Danny Clare is a co-owner of Abbeydale Road craft beer bar Two Thirds Beer Co, where they were giving away 50 pints of Freedom Lager to the first 50 people through the door to redeem a voucher.
They are operating a hybrid model of offering both table service and allowing people to order at the bar if they choose to.
Danny said the Two Thirds team were “cautiously optimistic” about freedom day, adding: “I think it’s going to take time for people to get used to it and relax.”
Ian Howie visited Two Thirds on Monday afternoon, and said that while he felt safe there, he would have preferred for lockdown to have continued until the number of Covid cases had begun to come down.