At last we can make our cautious return back to the pub - YEP Comment

It has been a long time since most of us stepped inside a pub.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 2:26 pm

Local lockdowns, national lockdowns, tier three restrictions and a national lockdown once more have kept doors firmly shut here in Leeds.

Christmas and New Year passed by without the unusual fanfare, bad Christmas medleys and Call Lane carol crooning replaced with a hushed silence.

Restaurants too were forced to turn off the stove, unable to open for the usual gaggle of Christmas do’s and festive frivolities.

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People heading into Banyan restaurant in City Square.

The winter months rolled on with a sense of uncertainty and no end in sight; there was still no popping for a pint with a loved one or friend, nor celebrating birthdays with a bottomless brunch.

For a city like Leeds, known across the country for its thriving nightlife, this was tough to witness.

Our independent pubs and restaurants are the heart of the city and we treasure them.

Whether that’s Whitelocks, teeming with history as the oldest pub in Leeds, or the launch of a new venture like North Brewing Co’s Springwell, we are a city that shows up and supports our local venues.

We’ve watched helplessly as beloved venues such as rock bar Bad Apples and pizzeria LIVIN’ Italy Dough House announced that they would never reopen and we’ve backed our favourite restaurants as they announce online delivery services in a bid to make sure they don’t meet the same fate.

Then finally, hope was in the air as the Government announced a plan for the hospitality industry to slowly reopen.

Erecting gazebos and rearranging beer gardens, pubs and restaurants began to open up for outdoor drinking and dining.

Braving the weather, many of us flocked to them, desperate for a bit of normality and to share drinks and foods with friends.

But it hasn’t come without its challenges, with capacity cut significantly for most venues, meaning bookings were hard to come by, and, while there’s no denying that there is a simple pleasure in sitting around a table sharing food with loved ones, a torrential downpour can put a damper on things.

And so it was with great enthusiasm that we welcomed the news that restaurants and pubs could reopen inside once more this week.

No longer will we need to carry an extra bag filled with raincoats, hats and gloves - and sunglasses and suncream if you’re feeling optimistic - as we head back into the warmth of our favourite haunts.

However, despite our excitement and this positive step forward, we need to remember to be cautious and conscious of health and safety measures.

With the new Indian covid strain identified in Yorkshire, there is still a threat to the easing of lockdown measures, and it is up to us to take steps to make sure we limit our potential to spread the virus.

Bars and restaurants have been waiting so long to serve their customers again, and they’ve gone above and beyond to make sure their venues are as safe as possible.

Let’s respect them, and each other, by making sure we tread carefully into this next stage of lockdown, follow the rules and enjoy our freedoms in a safe way.