On Monday at breakfast time, some Englishmen already had a few pints of alcohol on them. Despite the freezing temperatures in many parts of England and the snowflakes that fell in London at dawn, several pubs and beer gardens (literally beer gardens) opened at midnight to toast the end of more than three months of confinement, which has tested the patience of the British.
One of the ones that I didn’t wait to see the light of day was the Oak Inn in Coventry, but its success, with a line of more than a hundred people drinking in the open outside of the premises, has scaled the municipal authorities . The pub is under investigation for breach of safety regulations.
In other bars the night opening was the great moment of the reunion. “We didn’t know if it was going to work, if someone was going to come. It was midnight, it was freezing cold, but everyone has come and there is no free table ”, the BBC’s boss told Showtime beforehand, in Huddersfield, a city of 160,000 inhabitants in the north of England.
A gray-haired customer, with a colored scarf around his neck, explained that he had spent all this time locked in the house without seeing anyone. “I only went out to go to funerals.”
“Going back to work is very important mentally”
When the sun was already shining at The Greyhound Inn in Warslow, in the Peak District, one of the most tourist regions of the country, there was a solemn opening ceremony, with a speech and gong, to the applause of the customers who started the day with fried eggs and bacon.
But with very few exceptions, the vast majority of pubs and bars either delayed opening or simply remained closed. In the London borough of South Kensington at noon, the only one with the door open was the Brompton Wine Bar, where they were finishing the cleaning and taking green plants out to the sidewalk, next to the wooden tables.
The terrace of a London pub, crowded.
“We open at four this afternoon. We have been closed for more than three months, so today is a great day for us, we have been waiting for it for a long time ” , said Simona, one of the employees. “Mentally, going back to work is also very important. You have something different to think about ”.
The British Pub and Brewers Association has warned that only 40%of English establishments have enough outdoor space for them to consider reopening before May 17th profitable. Even then, when it is possible to drink and eat indoors, the rules that will govern to avoid contagion remain to be decided.
The Government is reluctant to impose a vaccination certificate or some type of test at the entrance, but each owner can implement in their premises the rules they consider appropriate.
The great boom, on the day of the return to a certain normality, took place in the shopping streets. In Sheffield, Birmingham, Nottingham or Portsmouth, there were long lines from seven in the morning , like on sale days, at the cheap Primark clothing stores , or at sportswear stores like JD Sports .
At the TK Maxx on King Street in London, the seven open boxes were not enough to serve those who were waiting loaded with entire baskets full of clothes, shoes and utensils for the house.
Long line to buy in a London store after three months of closure.
At the Ikea in Bristol there were 1,000 people waiting in line to enter. The number of those who wandered at 10 a.m. through shopping areas was triple, compared to last Monday and only 15% less than the levels of 2019, according to Springboard analysts.
It remains to be seen if buyer greed lasts and is sustainable. Many of those who went shopping found a scenario very different from the one they left. Entire chains with a lot of pull, such as Topshop, Wallis, River Island or Next have sunk. The sector lost 180,000 jobs last year.
Those who will not have too many problems in recovering the rhythm of business are the hairdressers. In most classrooms, appointments are already booked for the next few weeks. One of the first to cut his hair was Boris Johnson, although the improvement was minimal, as was seen in his appearance in Parliament.
The prime minister called on citizens to act “responsibly” in order to avoid a new wave and another lockdown. Some scientists believe the de-escalation is premature. Dr. Mike Tildesley, who studies the mechanisms for the transmission of infections, warned that any form of reopening “can lead to increased risk.”