Hugs and smiles as Sunderland businesses welcome customers back indoors
People have been able to share a hug and enjoy a pint or a meal inside as lockdown restrictions have been eased further today.
Indoor pints, trips to the pictures and hugs with loved ones are back as coronavirus measures are relaxed further on Monday (May 17) in line with the Government’s roadmap to lifting lockdown.
It follows April’s easing of the rules, which saw outdoor hospitality, hairdressers and non-essential retailers in the city welcome customers back for the first time this year.
While many venues took advantage of last month’s relaxation, a substantial number did not – and pub bosses in Sunderland have told the Echo they expect it to be “buzzing”.
People in the city headed out for pints and cocktails, while others opted for coffee and breakfast – but almost no one missed the chance to give their loved ones a hug.
We’ve been speaking with business owners and customers in the city centre throughout the day – scroll down to catch up with our live coverage.
Live updates as Sunderland’s businesses reopen indoors
Last updated: Monday, 17 May, 2021, 13:33
- May 17 marks the third stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap to easing lockdown
- Indoor hospitality, cinemas, art galleries and theatres are among the venues welcoming customers back today
- We are in Sunderland city centre bringing you the latest as more businesses reopen
What rules are changing from Monday?
Today marks another relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, as rules are eased further in line with stage 3 of the roadmap to lifting lockdown.
It means pubs and restaurants will be able to welcome customers back indoors and household visits can resume.
Holidays abroad are also allowed and so are trips to the cinema and visiting art galleries and theatres.
Hugs and other physical contact between households is also be permitted from today for the first time in over a year.
The William Jameson in the city centre is among the pubs welcoming customers back indoors this morning.
Manager Gemma Foster has said it’s been “really busy already”.
She said: “We’re all really excited about today, we’ve been waiting patiently to open the inside and it’s great welcoming customers back.
“We’re just planning for June now, looking forward to the summer. It’s been really busy already and we’re expecting it to get busier throughout the day.”
Let’s drink to that
Darren Lovert, 55, a painter and decorator from East End is enjoying a pint with friends.
He said: “I’m buzzing to be back, it’s exciting and it’s a lot nicer being inside out the cold!
“I’m a little worried about another lockdown but I’m looking forward to the future.”
Time for a hug
Joanne Gray, 49, manager of Greggs from Pallion and Brenda Gray, 76 from Redhouses are loving being out the cold with John McCowliff.
Joanne said: “I am absolutely over the moon to be inside. We’ve been sitting in the beer garden in the freezing cold for weeks so I’m buzzing to be having a coffee inside.
“They’ve been excellent here with social distancing, as have many places in Sunderland. I think inside venues should have opened ages ago, but it’s onwards and upwards from here.”
Brenda added: “I’m just glad to be out the cold, it’s been busy in here and it’s nice to see. Hopefully all these businesses will be able to stay afloat.”
“It’s been a long time coming"
Jon Hutchinson, 65, is having a pint while waiting for his wife at the hairdressers.
He said: “It’s been a long time coming, but we’re happy to be having a pint and a bite to eat.
“It’s been too cold to have a drink outside, so I’m glad everything has started opening up.”
Reunited at last
Sisters Pat Dewar, 76 from New Herrington and Ann Graham, from Ford Estate have been enjoying a coffee in Market Square.
Pat said: “This is the first time we’ve been out for a coffee in weeks! We’re absolutely over the moon. We’ve had both our vaccines so I feel a lot more confident being out now.”
Ann added: “I’m really pleased to see places open and I’m looking forward to booking a holiday now!”
What’s on at the pictures?
Cinemas are among the venues allowed to reopen from today and Sunderland’s Empire Cinema in High Street West has announced its plans to welcome film fans back from Wednesday, May 26.
Here are some of the films which will be screened:
Disney’s live action Cruella
Godzilla vs Kong
Tom and Jerry the Movie
The Conjuring 3
Peter Rabbit 2
Busy morning at McDonald's
McDonald’s in Sunderland’s High Street West welcomed customers back this morning.
Manager Louise Nash, 37 , has said it’s been “lovely” to see regulars again.
She said: “I’m feeling good about today, we’re excited.
“We’ve been full downstairs all morning and expecting to be busy later today too.
“It’s been lovely seeing the regulars back this morning, it can only get better from here.”
Breakfast and a trip to the bingo
Husband and wife Lilian, 76 and Derek, 82 Shotton from South Shields have been enjoying breakfast inside McDonald’s for the first time in months.
Lilian said: “I still feel really anxious about going out, Derek has encouraged me come out!
“I think a lot of people feel like this, I feel nervous but hopefully I’ll feel better over time. We’ve had both our vaccines so that makes me feel a little better. I’m going to the bingo tonight and I’m looking forward to that.”
Derek said: “I feel champion, feel better for coming out and opening up businesses will do the economy good.
“I do think there will be another lockdown though, but it will be something we’ll have to deal with.”
“I’m looking forward to things getting better"
The Keel Lounge in High Street West opened today for the first time since November.
Owner Sharon Downey, 50, said: “I’m actually a bit nervous about today, but it’s been nice seeing the regulars popping in.
“It’s been a slow start but it’s been good for training staff on all the health and safety rules in place.
“We’ve been closed since November and it’s been horrendous, we’ve still had to pay rent and bills so it’s been stressful, but hopefully it will get better from here.
“I am worried about another lockdown but hopefully it won’t be a national one.
“I’m looking forward to things getting better.”
‘A nice change’ as friends reunite for breakfast
Friends Janette Waugh, 59, a music teacher from Tunstall and Fiona Button, 57, who works for a garden centre from Barnes have been enjoying breakfast at the Keel Lounge in High Street West this morning.
Janette said: “It’s been nice eating inside and meeting people. We don’t normally come out for breakfast but it’s been a nice change. I expect there to be another lockdown because I think opening up is far too soon.
“We’ve had two babies in the family born in the pandemic so I’m being very wary, avoiding shops and crowds so I can still be in a bubble with my daughter. Hopefully things get better.”
Fiona added: “I’ve been fine throughout the pandemic as I work from home anyway but I think opening up the businesses needed to happen. It will really help smaller, independent businesses.”
Taking it ‘step by step' amid Indian variant concern
Restrictions are eased today as planned, but worries over the Indian variant of Covid-19 remain after Boris Johnson admitted during a Downing Street press conference on Friday (May 14) that the new coronavirus strain could put the roadmap out of lockdown under threat.
John Dickman, owner of Port of Call has said he is concerned about the variant, but excited to welcome customers back indoors.
He said: “I’m apprehensive but excited about today.
“I’m just waiting on what happens next, because I’m concerned about the Indian variant.
“I’m hoping 21st June changes still go ahead and we’re really looking forward to the summer.
“Business has been fantastic, really busy outside when we opened in April so hopefully that is replicated inside.
“I’m looking forward to the Sunderland games and the Euros coming up. We’ll take it step by step.”
Starting the day off with a hug
Today is the first day in over a year people are allowed to hug their loved ones - and swimmers at Seaburn beach this morning went in for a hug before dipping in the sea.
What happens next?
Today has brought us a step closer to the forth, final stage of lifting lockdown according to the Government’s road map.
June 21 is expected to bring an end to all remaining legal limits on social contact, as well as the reopening of nightclubs and the return of large events, such as festivals.
But the rise in cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19 could mean step four is delayed.
During a Downing Street press conference on Friday, May 14, Boris Johnson said: “I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our road map and we will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday.
“But I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June.”
“We’re so excited to get back open"
Dan Slater, General Manager at 808 Bar and Kitchen in St Thomas’ Street, said: “We’re so excited to get back open.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response, we’ve got a busy week ahead and are fully booked for the Friday and Saturday as well as the Bank Holiday Sunday.
He added: “We ran a successful take away service in lockdown and that really helped to keep us in people’s minds.”