Table service and time slots - how Sunderland's seafront bars have adapted for reopening

It was more of a steady Saturday than a super Saturday as many seafront businesses reported manageable numbers on the first day of trading since the country went into lockdown.

Saturday, 4th July 2020, 7:02 pm
Seafront businesses reopen on July 4

There were fears that July 4 would cause chaos after the Government announced pubs, restaurants and hotels could reopen their doors, but well-managed booking and social distancing procedures meant that the businesses we spoke to in Roker and Seaburn on Saturday afternoon hadn’t encountered problems so far.

At the Roker Hotel, they’d hoped to have a large beer garden in the front car park. Drizzly weather put paid to that, but inside a steady stream of bookings adhered to social distancing measures including using Poetic License hand sanitiser, which is made at the on-site distillery, using a one-way system and disposable menus.

Operations director at The Roker Hotel, Jonathan Graham said: “Everyone here today is a booking with three-hour slots and only every other table in use at one time.

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Poetic License staff: Andrea Titoiu, general manager Craig Morris and graphic designer Lex Adair

“Everyone has their details taken when booking and can scan a QR code when they enter. We want to show people we’re a safe and responsible site. You can’t put profit first in a situation like this.

“We’ve had no problems and aren’t anticipating any, everyone is adhering to the rules. I think there was a lot of hype about Super Saturday and that it was going to be like New Year’s Eve but it hasn’t been like that at all.

"People are still cautious and I think weekends will get busier as consumer confidence returns.”

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Poetic License hand sanitiser

Down the road, regulars were keen to get back to The Promenade, but staff admit social distancing is a difficult adjustment to make.

Rob O’Donoghue, manager, said: “Reopening after lockdown has been more stressful than opening a new bar and Christmas and we only had two weeks to prepare.

“It’s difficult because people are wanting to get up and do their own thing, but it’s table service only. So far people have been listening to what we’re saying but you don’t know if that will change when they’ve had a drink.” The pub opened at 9am and had its first customer at 9.45am.

The Grand in Seaburn has been open for key workers during lockdown, but it can now take bookings from general members of the public.

Reception staff behind screens at The Grand in Seaburn

General manager Dean Routledge said: “Bedroom bookings have been really positive and we’re looking forward to a good July. We’re hoping that the staycation market will see us through the next couple of months.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about flying and although flights are operating out of Newcastle Airport, there’s definitely less people travelling.

“In Sunderland we have the added bonus of guests being able to walk out of the hotel and be on the beach and hopefully the nice weather will return.”

“Safety measures at the hotel include screens at reception, sanitiser zones and staff thoroughly clean rooms before and after stays, but do not enter during someone’s visit.”

Door staff at Seldon's to guide people

Kids, as well as big kids at heart, will be happy that Seldon’s Leisure World is back open. Safety measures in place include: staff on the door, sanitisation zones throughout, perspex screens, one-way system, families asked to stay in their bubbles and people are encouraged to use the change machines.

Lindsey Noble, co-owner at Seldon’s said: “Some staff were a little worried about coming back, but we’ve implemented a lot of safety measures. We only have one staff member on the floor at a time and the other staff are behind new screens and that’s helped them to feel secure.

“Customers have been really keen to come back. They’ve been ringing all the time.”

Grant Seldon, co-owner at the family firm, added: “People are apprehensive but that’s to be expected. We’ve done a lot to make people safe and confidence breeds confidence. We can only offer guidelines, people have to use common sense too.

"The worst thing that could happen to any business is to go back into lockdown.”

Grant Seldon, co-owner at family firm Seldon's, in front of perspex screens