After weeks of al fresco only, pubs and restaurants are ready to serve indoors

Diners and drinkers have braved the wind, rain and cold – but now can’t wait for pubs and restaurants to open up indoors in the next stage of the Government’s roadmap to “normality”.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 12:00 pm
The team at Capri Italian restaurant, Old Bank Road, Mirfield, ready to welcome customers indoors again from May 17

Hospitality venues across North Kirklees have splashed out to keep customers dry and warm(ish) since they could open beer gardens and outside dining spaces.

But now licensees and restaurateurs are counting down the days until Monday, May 17 when hospitality can re-open its doors and serve people inside.

Paymen Karimi, who runs the Capri Italian restaurant in Mirfield, said: “Everybody is looking forward to opening up again.

Carol Hemming, manager, and Zoey Hemingway at the West Riding pub, Dewsbury Railway Station, ready to pull pints again ahead of re-opening next week

“The Government has been very good to us with furlough and everything but now I want stability for my staff. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully we will only go forwards from here, not back.”

Paymen opened his new £1.4 million Mirfield restaurant, on the site of the old Thirsty Man pub, just five days before lockdown in March last year.

Social distancing meant that when the restaurant was able to open properly last summer, the capacity was restricted from 185 covers to just 95.

During the pandemic Paymen, who has other restaurants in Horbury Bridge, Wakefield and Leeds, built a home dining operation which he expects to continue to do well.

Paymen Karimi at Capri Italian restaurant in Mirfield

But he has been heartened by the support of regular customers who have come to dine outside since the lifting of the latest lockdown restrictions.

The restaurant erected a marquee and installed electric heaters and customers were happy to eat out – literally.

“People have missed the experience of going out for dinner,” said Paymen. “For the first 10 days after we opened in April there was lovely weather but then it rained and turned cold.

“Some days I wondered whether people would come but they have. One lady insisted on coming as it was her birthday. She said she had missed going out on her birthday last year and she was determined she wouldn’t miss out this year.

General manager Andy Hedley and head chef Darren Collinson in the new covered area at George's Bistro and Bar, Parkside, Cleckheaton

“Coats and jackets are the order of the day and some customers have even brought their own blankets – but I’ve not had one complaint about the weather.

“I think people have to come out with the right attitude. Yes, it’s going to be cold but they are determined to have a good time with some real human contact.”

The Mirfield restaurant has extended its hours, opening for breakfast at 9.30am and serving lunches and suppers through to 8.30pm, seven days a week.

Paymen expects his home-dining business to take a 10-15 per cent hit when the restaurant fully re-opens when all restrictions are lifted and he doesn’t expect everyone to return straightaway.

“I think some people will wait a while before they come out again,” he said.

“They will want to see what happens and make sure everybody is safe.”

Barry Shaw, sales and operations manager for the West Riding pub at Dewsbury Railway Station, said the weather over the last couple of weeks had been “challenging” for staff and customers alike.

“It’s been difficult watching the weather forecast every night and trying to work out our staffing levels and what stock we would need but overall it’s been positive since we re-opened.

People have taken to the outdoors very well and adhered to all the rules. But now we just want to get back inside and have the events, quizzes and food and start to bring a sense of normality back.”

A key aspect of the West Riding’s business is trade from rail passengers and that remains a big unknown. “Train numbers are well down and whether we will see the commuters piling in from Leeds like we used to, we don’t know. Hopefully confidence will grow and people will start using public transport again. It’ll be a telling few months.”

Not all hospitality venues are re-opening their full facilities straightaway. George’s Bistro & Bar in Cleckheaton has adapted to the British weather with its undercover dining area, which has proved popular – even during last Saturday’s wash-out weather.

The bistro is still being refurbished so won’t re-open until early June when a new summer menu will come on stream.

Head chef Darren Collinson said the tapas-style menu would be served inside from next week but fine dining would remain al-fresco for the time being.

“It’ll be worth waiting for,” said Darren.

“We are trying to create something a little bit different and special for Cleckheaton.”