MORE than three months after pubs stopped serving customers, pints have been pulled at bars across Herefordshire as punters filled beer gardens.
Pubs reported having a good day on Monday as the Covid-19 lockdown was eased in England, allowing food and drink to be served to customers outside.
But for one Herefordshire pub, it’s the first time the doors have been open to the public for more than five years.
Paul English, 61, and his family have taken over the King’s Head in Docklow, near Leominster, after making the move to Herefordshire from Kent.
He said the King’s Head served up 60 meals on its first day back open, and he was keen to again make the pub a hub for locals to meet up after it last closed its doors in 2015.
“The surprising thing is, because we chat to them [the locals], they all met up with the friends here and the villagers – they just haven’t seen them for ages,” Mr English, who has help from his wife, son and his girlfriend to run the pub, said.
“Not just because of the lockdown either, but because they don’t all go to the same place anymore.
“Whereas this is the focal point, they can all come here and meet their friends and neighbours, which they haven’t been able to do for a long time.”
Mr English said he was keen to get the pub open by April 12, despite only moving to the county last month, so the villagers had a place to go locally when lockdown restrictions eased.
He said the restrictions, which currently limit how many people can sit together with food and drinks only served outside, was an ideal time for he and wife Debra to get back into the pub trade after more than two decades.
“We’ve come back into the trade, we’ve been out of it for a number of years, and my wife was until two weeks ago a midwife working for Maidstone trust,” he said.
“We’ve been out of it for 20-odd years, but we’ve been wanting to come back to the business for years, we’ve been missing it.
“We looked at it and thought even though it’s an odd time and pubs are going bust, it’s probably the ideal time to get back into it and get our feet under the table before it goes mad again, before we’re fully released, as it were.
“It’s better we get back into it gradually, and I’ve got to be honest – I’m an honest person – it was a good price because the pub had been struggling.
“We had it come through on email to us from the agent, we looked at it and loved the look of it.
“We got in the car one day and arranged to look at it, we came in through the front door and the place has just got a fantastic atmosphere, even empty.
“Even with no beer, no people, it’s got a lovely atmosphere and we felt it straight away.”
At the Three Horseshoes Inn in the village of Allensmore, near Hereford, landlord Steve Ottley said it was a profitable day, despite the extra work of serving outside.
He said all customers on Monday were happy to follow rules around test and trace and being seated at a table.
Mr Ottley has been left hoping for some warmer weather though, as lunchtime trade often comprises older customers.
Wye Valley Brewery, based in Stoke Lacy, near Bromyard, said there had been a “real buzz” around the site last week as staff geared up for trade deliveries to start again.
The brewery, which supplies pubs across the county and further afield, said: “Seeing a number of familiar faces as our friends and colleagues have been returning to work has been a delight.
“Our brewing and production has ramped up, producing those wonderful aromas that always tease our taste buds. And the WVB truck fleet has once again returned to where it belongs – out delivering to our customers.”