Pubs do steady trade as doors reopen for indoor drinking at midnight

Pubs have welcomed punters inside for the first time in at least four months.

The Oak Inn in Coventry was among the venues opening their doors at midnight as coronavirus restrictions eased in England, with owner Darren Lee saying about 100 people had gathered for a drink but he noted the pub was not “overly busy”.

He said the early opening had been “very well received”, adding his locals were “really glad to be back inside – they’re really up for it”.

He anticipated larger numbers building throughout the day on Monday and into the evening as people finish worked work.

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That hope was shared by Ian Snowball, the owner of Showtime Bar in Huddersfield, who acknowledged it was not as busy at his venue as when lockdown easing on April 12 allowed pub gardens to reopen.

“It’s not as big as it was when we first opened in the garden, that was immense,” he said.

“This is a bit of an anti-climax but I think it’ll build up again – the anticipation isn’t quite there like it was last time.

“But it’s still good fun,” he added.

Sat nearby was Finlay Woodhead, 20, who could barely contain his excitement at being back inside a pub.

“I’m over the moon, I’ve been waiting so long,” he said.

“It’s so nice to be sat inside where it’s warm. I love it, honestly, I love it.”

Bar staff celebrate in the Showtime Bar at 00:00 in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, as indoor hospitality and entertainment venues reopen to the public
Bar staff celebrate in the Showtime Bar in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, as indoor hospitality and entertainment venues reopen to the public (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Snowball said he was hopeful his venue would not have to go into lockdown again, adding: “I think for people from the North, it’s kind of special to us, a pub.

“There’s an intimacy when we all get together, with our friends, and we talk.”

It was much quieter in the capital, with most venues in south-west London remaining closed ahead of an expected busy day of trading on Monday.

Heavy rain throughout the day on Sunday had eased by midnight, yet there was no sign of eager drinkers in Balham, Clapham and Brixton.

On Sunday Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted it was right to continue with the easing of restrictions despite concerns over the Indian coronavirus variant.