Life is getting back to normal – here, UK businesses reveal how they will be keeping us safer as we come out of lockdown
Seeing friends, eating out(side) at a restaurant and grabbing a beer…the easing of lockdown restrictions has brought us so much joy these past few weeks.
Finally, we can wander around the shops, browsing to our hearts’ content, actually seeing what things look like and how they feel before parting with our hard-earned money.
But it’s only been possible thanks to the hard work done by stores and other businesses that have moved mountains to be able to welcome us back safely.
Here, UK businesses tell us about all the measures they’ve taken to protect us against Covid so we can shop till we drop without worrying.
‘WE’RE THRILLED THAT WE CAN REOPEN SAFELY’
Just two months after buying a Scottish country-clothing brand in January last year, its new owner was forced to close because of lockdown.
But since reopening on May 1, A Hume’s managing director Rachel Thomson has seen locals flocking back to the 100-year-old business in Kelso.
‘Spring and summer aren’t usually our strongest seasons, but there’s been such a resurgence of the country lifestyle in lockdown,’ says Rachel. ‘People have been keen to come in to buy walking boots, wellies and technical coats. We’ve been really busy.
‘We have traffic lights outside each store, which mean that we can limit the numbers of people shopping. And, of course, we have hand sanitisers, floor discs to encourage the two-metre rule and plexiglass screens at the tills.’
Crucially, they’ve been able to keep their changing rooms open with staff on hand to sanitise them after each use. Similarly, any item that’s been touched by a customer gets treated with an antibacterial spray and left for several hours before being returned to the shop floor.
‘It’s a real advantage to be able to try before you buy with these kinds of purchases,’ says Rachel. ‘And while we still can’t give them a cup of tea or let them sit down for a chat, we are thrilled that we can reopen safely while we get back to normal.’
‘WE OPENED A NEW RESTAURANT TO ENSURE SOCIAL DISTANCING’
When faced with losing a third of his award-winning Belfast chippy’s tables because of social distancing, John Lavery made a brave decision.
Despite having only been able to serve takeaways during lockdowns for the past year, he decided to invest £60,000 to turn the upstairs of Fish City’s premises into a new bar and restaurant.
‘It became clear pretty quickly that the essential safety requirements would have a serious impact on revenue,’ says John.
‘This led us to look at an extensive space we had upstairs that wasn’t being used. We had been considering adding extra tables for some time, and decided to move quickly on this to ensure the continuing success of our business.
‘We decided to create a dining room upstairs with a completely different feel –virtually a new restaurant. While the seafood theme is still a feature, we’ve branded it Hook and Anchor – Fishermen’s Cabin for a different look.’
When the restaurant eventually reopens to indoor dining, there will be other safety measures in place. ‘We’ve mounted a digital thermometer at the door, which all staff and customers will be required to pass before entering the premises,’ says John. ‘Anyone recording a high temperature will be refused admission.
‘Hand sanitiser will be readily available at the entrance. In addition, kitchen and front-of-house staff will be required to wear masks and wash their hands regularly. Tables and chairs will be cleaned when each diner has left.
‘We are doing everything possible to provide an environment that’s both safe and welcoming for customers.’
‘CHEERS – WE’VE USED OUR GIN TO CREATE OUR HAND SANITISER’
Whenever customers visit the Salcombe Distilling Company – whether it’s to have a drink, buy from the shop or create a unique blend at their Gin School – they will be offered free hand sanitiser to use.
But it’s not just any old hand sanitiser, rather it’s been made from the Devon firm’s own alcohol, and smells absolutely delightful.
‘It has a lovely coastal gin aroma,’ says co-founder Howard Davies, 44. ‘It’s nice and pleasant to use, and is also effective and hugely popular.’
It’s just one of the ways they will help customers and staff feel safer when they reopen fully on May 17. Another is the twice-weekly rapid Covid tests they’ve introduced for staff, along with face coverings.
Numbers have also been cut back. Whereas before 16 people at a time could enjoy blending their own gin from over 100 different botanicals, this will be limited to six to ensure social distancing.
The same is true in the bar where just 25 people will be allowed – as long as they’ve checked in using the app – alongside a one-way system and table service. And the shop – which has Perspex screens – is limited to just six customers.
‘It’s about protecting the best interests of the guests and staff, but without compromising on the quality of the amazing experience we offer,’ says Howard. ‘We can’t wait to welcome people back – we love engaging with people who are passionate about gin.’
‘PORTMEIRION NEEDS PEOPLE TO COME TO LIFE’
Many people dream of being able to wander on their own around Portmeirion, the Italian-style village in Wales that was the setting for cult TV series The Prisoner.
But it’s actually crowds of people admiring the unusual architecture and stunning views that make the place what it is, argues location manager Meurig Jones.
‘When we saw the first trickle of people coming back last month, it was lovely,’ he says. ‘Portmeirion needs people here – it’s lovely, colourful and inspiring, but it needs people to appreciate it to make it come to life.’
Since last year they’ve instigated changes to make the tourist attraction even more Covid-safe, with new access to the car parks and separate entrances and exits to the village.
‘And we’ve got pods outside the main hotel,’ says Meurig. ‘There are six of them with an amazing view over the estuary, and three by the castle. They’re a new thing for us, and they look great – we’ve put lights in them and they’re lovely.’
Staff are temperature checked when they come into work and have been on courses about the new regulations. Some shops and cafés remain closed, but the biggest and most popular – including the iconic Prisoner store and Italian ice-cream bar – are now open.
However, guests at the two hotels are being asked to check in later and check out earlier.
‘This is so that we can use our misting machine in the rooms to sanitise them and leave them squeaky clean,’ says Meurig. ‘People don’t seem to mind.’
‘MY DENTIST TOLD ME THE SECRET OF SAFE REOPENING’
It was a routine dental check-up that gave Ann Clarke an idea for how to reopen her gorgeous tea rooms safely.
‘My dentist was using an air purifier with HEPA filters,’ she says. ‘He explained them to me – the fan draws air through the filter and purifies it – and I thought they would be marvellous for us.’
So she bought two for Marlborough institution the Polly Tea Rooms, and never looked back.
‘We have them working constantly. They’re the best thing we’ve bought.’
Ann has taken on more staff on shorter shifts as there’s now so much to do to keep customers safe, even though tables numbers inside will halve to just 22 when they reopen fully on Monday, May 17.
‘We’ve done a lot of staff training,’ she says. ‘Bowls of sugar have to be thrown away if not used, salt and pepper pots sanitised after each use and tables and chairs, too.
‘We are confident we’re as safe as we can be.’
■ For more information, go to gov.uk/workingsafely
Suzanne Fogg, 58, is a toy shop assistant in Perth
‘Recently I won a £250 Perth gift card, which can be spent in any of the many lovely independent shops in the city. It arrived earlier this week and I can’t wait to spend it – I saw a handbag earlier with my name on and I’m going back to get it!’
Kriti Sachdeva, 33, a marketing manager at ecommerce start-up Novos, lives in Southend
‘I love shopping, so the day shops reopened, I booked half a day off work and visited every single store, coming home with lots of clothes, shoes and things for the home. My husband wasn’t very happy! Since then, I’ve found an excuse to go to the high street every day – it’s my daily exercise!’
Caroline Joynson, 43, runs Cheerleader PR and lives in Leeds
‘I’m not great at online shopping – I love physically going to the shops to look for clothes, feel them and see what they look like on me. So when they reopened, I went straight into Mango and was chuffed to find the changing rooms open. I came out with two pairs of jeans and a shirt and felt really safe as everyone had their masks on.’
■ This article is part of a paid-for partnership with the UK Government
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