Customers and workers return to partly reopened Camden Market

Customers and workers have welcomed the partial reopening of Camden Market in north London as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Under slight changes to lockdown rules coming into force on Monday, people in England are now able to visit outdoor markets.

In Camden, a phased re-opening saw small street food traders and some outdoors stalls back at work, but attracting few customers in the first few hours of the day.

Camden Market
The market has reopened as part of a wider easing of lockdown restrictions in England (Aaron Chown/PA)

A one-way system has been introduced to guide customers through the market, with floor markings encouraging people to stay two metres apart and free hand sanitiser stations also in place.

Market traders and customers will also be encouraged to wear face masks.

Hilmi Kivanic, 65, owner of the Wild Balance hat shop, said he was not expecting many customers as he set up his outdoor stall on Monday morning.

“We just came up here for hope, full of hope,” he said, adding: “My hope is to just make a little bit of earnings after all this.”

Camden Market
Traders have been urged to wear face masks (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Kivanic, who has worked in the market for 42 years, said he was only expecting customer levels to reach 20% of those before Covid-19.

He admitted that he was “scared” of potentially taking a coronavirus infection back to his family, but he had returned to “support the market”.

“Somehow I have to take some chance. It’s a really hard decision to come up here. I have to do it,” he said.

Margarita Milosavljevic, commercial director for Camden Market, owned by landlord LabTech, said non-essential retailers were due to open on June 15, with other businesses opening when Government guidance permitted.

Camden Market
There have been relatively few customers on the market’s first day after restrictions were eased in England (Aaron Chown/PA)

She said the suspension of market tenants’ rent payments during lockdown would continue “until further notice”.

Ms Milosavljevic explained security teams manning market entrances would count footfall numbers and potentially disperse large crowds “safely and securely”.

She said that following “open discussions”, 80% of street food units support re-opening on Monday with social distancing in place.

“We have enough space to spread the tables and to allow that social distancing to take place in a much safer environment than the rest of our competitors,” she added.

Camden Market
Safety measures include social distancing, hand sanitisers and traders wearing masks (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ms Milosavljevic said the phased re-opening would be “judged on a daily basis” and that those who decided not to return would be respected.

She said there was currently no set maximum on the number of people who could enter the market, but said seven roving security teams would monitor gatherings and crowds.

“I guess we won’t get it right from day one, but what I can assure the public is that we have a team who works behind the scenes 24 hours and should any issues arise we will be here to manage it,” she said.

Dave and Denise Abner, from nearby St John’s Wood, said it was “nice to be back” at the market on Monday.

“Camden always gets very, very crowded, so it’s going to be hard for them to control the crowds, but hopefully they can do it in a way to keep people safe,” Mr Abner said.

Camden Market
Social distancing markers in Camden Market (Aaron Chown/PA)

He added: “We probably wouldn’t come if it was very crowded and we don’t think people should.”

Mr Abner described Camden as the “beating heart” of that part of London, adding: “I think it’s very important as a symbol to be open and that’s why we’re here on the first day it’s open because it’s an important place for us too.”

Louise Patel, 40, and her five-year-old daughter Lola, were also among the few customers visiting the market at the start of its gradual return.

Ms Patel said she had “no concerns” about making the 10-minute trip from home to mark her last day with her daughter before her return to school on Tuesday.

Camden Market
Mannequins wear face coverings in a shop in Camden Market (Aaron Chown/PA)

She said it felt “great” to return to the quiet market, describing the social-distancing measures as “the new order of things”.

“Everybody is making provisions the best way they can, it’s up to people now to keep a distance,” she said.

Ms Patel said Camden was helping to “lead the way” in showing how businesses could return and suggested “building confidence” was needed.

Ali Farzan, 57, who was working at the Seven Heaven Chocolate Company pancake and waffle stand, said it was “excellent” the market was reopening, adding that he had been “looking forward to it for 10 weeks”.

He had “no concerns at all” about returning to work, saying that it was a “good idea to start opening slowly”.

Great news! https://t.co/gOVajtyI4U

— Camden Town London (@CamdenTownLDN) June 1, 2020

He added: “I think for the locals it’s a great idea, because before the lockdown the main business of the market was all tourists from overseas and there was no chance for locals – maybe it was too crowded for them to come over, and this gives them a good opportunity to come out and and try the market once again as they used to years ago.”

Mr Farzan, who was wearing a face mask and gloves, said the stall set-up allowed him and a colleague to stay two metres apart from each other and from customers.

Chris Taylor, 28, general manager of the Half Hitch gin micro distillery, said the coronavirus crisis had been a “strange” time for the business which could now offer bottle collections alongside online sales.

Mr Taylor said he had “no expectations” for customer numbers, adding: “A lot of the foot traffic we get in Camden market is international tourism. Obviously that’s fallen off a cliff, so we may get local people who decide that they’d like to rediscover the markets.”

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