ENGLAND’S coronavirus lockdown eased again this week, and there is light at the end of the tunnel for managers of Hereford’s pubs, restaurants and cafes after a “turbulent” 14 months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and health experts urged people to exercise caution when they headed to pubs and restaurants as the lockdown eased on Monday (May 17) despite concerns about the spread of an Indian variant.

Hospitality venues in Hereford, which have faced uncertainty over lockdowns and changing rules and guidance since March 2020, said on Monday they were just glad to finally reopen indoors.

The latest unlocking means people in England can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30, and indoors in groups of six, or two households, and hospitality venues can reopen indoors.

The Prime Minister did urge people to treat the latest easing of restrictions with a “heavy dose of caution” while Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warned against excessive drinking for those returning to bars.

Richard Manning, owner of the Shack Revolution in Bastion Mews, off Union Street, in Hereford said trade had been good while customers were only allowed to sit outside, but he was thrilled to be able to reopen the indoor areas this weekend.

The Shack Revolution, described as an industrial wedding venue, hosts the Bastion Street Feast, which has brought together customers with street food traders since February 2020.

Mr Manning, who runs the business with his brother, James, said the ever-changing rules they have had to contend with had been a challenge, but customers have followed them while visiting.

“I think it’s been a very turbulent time for hospitality, and certainly events, because it’s been a chop and change process the last two months,” Mr Manning, 30, said.

Ledbury Reporter: James Manning, right, at the Shack Revolution in Hereford James Manning, right, at the Shack Revolution in Hereford

“The team onsite is just constantly changing the way we operate and changing the way we do things, and it’s been a challenge, but above all it’s exciting to get back to relative normality and start doing what we’re good at doing.

“It’ll be good to get people back in to enjoy the atmosphere in semi-normality, with the view of going back to new and normal times on June 21.”

Despite concerns over the Indian variant, which led the Prime Minister to host a press conference with England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty on Friday (May 14), there is still hope that the final stage of the Government’s roadmap out of the coronavirus lockdown will go ahead as planned.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned the Indian variant could be more transmissible, with Mr Johnson telling the conference: “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.”

But on Monday, Hereford’s business owners were just glad to see a little bit more normality return.

Mike Greene, owner of Cafe Miro in St Owen’s Street, said capacity and the weather had been a problem outside, despite bringing in a marquee and patio heaters.

Ledbury Reporter: Cafe Miro is glad it has been able to reopen indoors. Picture: Rob Davies Cafe Miro is glad it has been able to reopen indoors. Picture: Rob Davies

“We were shut from just before New Year’s Eve right through to April 12,” Mr Greene said.

“We opened on the 12th and had an amazing outdoor space, but people were looking at it thinking we were doing really well, but we weren’t.

“We had half the capacity, but need the same amount of staff to cope with the coronavirus guidelines and how you run your business. So we had 48 seats outside, which we got by on, and we were really appreciate the business, but we’ve been really looking forward to reopening inside.”