'It's full steam ahead' say city bars and venues as they look forward to Freedom Day
“It’s full steam ahead” say Sunderland’s events and hospitality sector as they look forward to a summer of getting back to business.
On Monday, July 5, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that most social distancing restrictions would end later this month.
Social distancing, working from home and mask wearing are among the measures to be scrapped in the next stage of lockdown easing in England, expected to happen on July 19.
Stage 4 of the roadmap to ease the country out of lockdown has been welcome news for the city’s events and hospitality sector who’ve been hit hardest by restrictions.
The Roker Hotel is one of the city’s biggest, and most popular, wedding locations.
With all legal limits on meeting indoors set to be lifted, it means for the first time since March 2020 weddings can take place as normal.
"It’s full steam ahead for us,” says operations director Jonathan Graham. “It’s been a rough 16 months for the hospitality industry and we have finally had some good news.
"We’re a huge wedding venue and we have a huge build up of weddings which couldn’t take place, so we’re looking forward to welcoming back brides and grooms.”
The Roker also houses Let There Be Crumbs tearoom and Poetic License bar which will keep their app ordering system as an option for those who prefer not to wait at the bar.
Jonathan added: "The app has worked well and people have become used to table service and not everyone will feel comfortable standing with others at the bar. Understandably, some people will be nervous so table service and masks will still be an option for those who want it.”
Freedom Day is welcome news too for the city’s smaller cafes and restaurants, whose covers were seriously cut by Covid.
Not only has Roker End Cafe in the ALS building had to deal with the lack of footfall from football fans, it could only allow a handful of customers in with social distancing.
Although it’s open throughout the week, fans returning to the neighbouring stadium will be a huge boost to business.
Liam Burnham from the cafe said: “We can’t wait to welcome fans back in on match days. It’s been a tough 16 months without match days. All our staff have been vaccinated now and we’ll be staying safe. Everyone is excited to get back into the the SOL again and to hopefully roar the lads to promotion.”
The announcement is a further step forward for the reopening of Sunderland Empire, a jewel in the crown of the city’s cultural landscape which hasn’t staged a show for a live audience since March last year.
Marie Nixon, theatre director, said: “As we prepare to turn off our ghost light, we recognise this is an important announcement. We have been very busy behind the scenes working on a host of exciting and innovative cultural projects thanks to support received from Cultural Recovery Fund, including our recently launched online music concerts, the Ghostlight Sessions.
"Although we may still be dark, the funding received has helped us to gear up our reopening plans and we look forward to welcoming audiences back to our beautiful theatre later in the summer, subject to further government advice and guidance.”