'The younger age group are not wearing their masks but the older people still are' - Sunderland businesses react to 'Freedom Day'
Businesses across Sunderland have been marking ‘Freedom Day’ and the end of legal coronavirus restrictions across England.
Face masks are no longer mandatory in shops, pubs and bars – but many Sunderland businesses said they had seen little change in customer behaviour.
Jennifer Dawson, 45, runs Jennifer's Flowers in Blandford Street, and is happy to let customers make their own decision on whether or not to wear a mask.
"We are just letting people make their own minds up," she said.
"A lot of people have still got their masks on. I am not particularly worried. I have been double jabbed."
Footfall had been low: "It has been really quiet today," said Jennifer.
"It's always a bit hit and miss when the kids are off because people don't want to bring them into town."
Jennifer's husband Fred, 52, runs Pop's Candy in the same shop. He has been less than impressed with the Government's handling of the pandemic from the beginning of the first lockdown early last year and believes people cannot be blamed if they are confused over the guidance.
"It is a complete mess," he said. "From the beginning, they have said one thing then contradicted themselves.
"If people want to wear a mask, they can but I'm not going to enforce it."
Hayley Metcalfe, 31, is manager at Waterstones in The Bridges and said there had been little change in the way customers were behaving, despite the end to legal restrictions.
"We have not seen a major change at all," she said.
"Most people are still wearing their masks and social distancing and a lot of them are still sanitising."
The shop had been a little busier than usual, but it was unclear as to whether this was down to it being ‘Freedom Day’ or simply the first day of the summer holidays: “It has been a little busier in terms of footfall but I don't know whether that is down to it being the school holidays, rather than Freedom Day,” said Hayley.
Jade O'Brien is trainee manager at nearby Lush. She said :“Things have not changed that much.
"People are still wearing masks, people are still keeping their distance. Footfall wise it has been a little more but we often see that when the schools are off. Certainly there are a lot of kids in the centre."
Liz Llewellyn, 22, works at Gatsby in Park Lane and has been pleased with the chance to engage more with customers: "It has been nice," she said.
"We are able to have a bit more of a joke with people, especially the regulars. But I think people are still getting used to the fact they can come to the bar again.”
Matthew Ellison is assistant manager over the road at Port of Call. He said he had seen a difference in behaviour between age groups. "The younger age group are not wearing their masks but the older people still are," he said.
"Some people are coming to the bar, but others are still preferring table service."