'It's fantastic to be back having a pint with your mates' - Large queues outside Sunderland Wetherspoon as beer gardens reopen
After months of pub closures, Sunderland drinkers wasted no time to get the beers in, with some waiting outside of one of the city's Wetherspoon pubs ahead of opening at 9am.
Mates Ian Tunstall, 71, and Vic Thirlwell, 66, from Hendon were waiting outside the Cooper Rose just before 9am and said they were looking forward to a pint of Carling.
"It's fantastic to be back," said Ian, "just to see your mates again."
Vic explained: "We would normally go to Jameson's but they have not got the space outside. I'm just looking forward to getting back to normal and we'll play it by ear today."
As the day went on long queues formed outside of the Cooper Rose J.D Wetherspoon pub.
Sam Anderson (left), 21 and Dom Zvirblys, 22, joined the queue at lunch time so they could get a pint.
Sam said: “I am buzzing to get back to normality, can’t wait for a pint of San Miguel, that’s the drink of choice.”
His mate Dom added: “I’m excited for a pint, it’s been a very boring few months of lockdown, we just need the nightclubs to open now.”
In the North East pubs have been closed since late 2020 as they weren’t able to open after the second lockdown due to the tier restrictions.
Ian Henderson, 37 from Hylton Castle is a driver for the North East Ambulance Service and has worked throughout the pandemic.Waiting for a chance to go into the Cooper Rose beer garden he said: “I am excited for a pint but I haven’t had the chance to really think about with being at work throughout the pandemic.
“It’s good to see everything open again and I know everyone is frustrated with the situation but people still need to be careful, it’s not the end of it yet.”
The Cooper Rose pub has created an outdoor beer garden in Albion Place after the council granted permission for the temporary closure of a short section of Derwent Street between the Cooper Rose and Chaplins.
The outdoor area means the pubs are able to serve customers from Monday April 12, rather than waiting until May when indoor hospitality is set to reopen.
Despite this, Chaplins has decided not to make use of its outdoor space and open straight away.
Tony Griffiths is chairman of LGT Developments, the firm which owns the pub, said he worries about people sticking to the rules.
Customers must wear face masks, follow one-way systems and observe social distancing when in venues, and only table service is allowed.
Tony said he does not want to see any repeat for previous scenes when staff tried to enforce the rules on social distancing.
He said: "Our staff were getting shouted at - it is just not good for anybody’s mental health.”
Tony plans to see how venues which do open on Monday cope with the new regulations before making any decision: “I will see how it goes for the first two weeks. I will go into a few other bars and see how it is working."
The Cooper Rose is not taking table bookings but is open for walk-ins if there are outdoor tables available.