Hard-hit pubs and clubs are ready to toast Freedom Day

Relieved bosses at nightclubs, pubs and live music venues are looking forward to being able to plan for the future at last.

Shaun Keasey, owner of Gorgeous nightclub, is among those eagerly awaiting July 19 saying “it’s the right time to open our doors”
Shaun Keasey, owner of Gorgeous nightclub, is among those eagerly awaiting July 19 saying “it’s the right time to open our doors”

“It’s great news and our first night back is going to be a way to thank everyone for their loyal support over the last year.”

The announcement by the prime minister Boris Johnson about plans to move away from restrictions on July 19 has been met with relief and excitement by venues across the region.

The planned lifting of restrictions on July 19 will see nightclubs permitted to reopen, capacity caps on businesses lifted, pubs and other hospitality venues no longer required to provide table service only and no limits on attendances for concerts and other events.

And for many venue owners it will be the end of what has been a tough time for the hard-hit hospitality industry.

Venue across the region have been speaking about how they feel at being able to welcome people back through their doors and what it will mean to them to be able run a normal service.

Shaun Keasey, who own Gorgeous nightclub and the Prince Albert pub in Wolverhampton, said relief was the overriding emotion he felt when he heard the news.

He said: “It’s been such a long time since we last opened the doors to the nightclub and while we understand why nightclubs have been the last part of the hospitality industry to open, it’s now the right time to open our doors.

“We are planning to open at one second past midnight on July 19 for a special one-off welcome back party, with everyone welcome, so it’s time to look forward, not back and get back to life as normal as possible.”

Across the city, the Planet nightclub owner Michael Ansell said he was tempering his excitement until after the restrictions lifting became official, but said it was positive news to know the end was near.

He said: “By knowing that we can start to make plans for reopening, it means the last 17 months weren’t in vain and that I can pay back the money I’ve borrowed and not go bankrupt.

“We won’t open until July 22 as, because of cash flow, I need to ensure my nights are going to be full, but we’ll have a big night for the people who paid into our Gofundme page as they’ve kept the place going. We have struggled so much with not knowing when the end was near, but to know that there is an end in sight is a relief as I can start to plan for the future and have people back in again.”

Live entertainment venues across the region have also spoken of their relief at the planned lifting, with Katie Fitzgerald’s in Stourbridge one of those feeling optimistic about the future.

Co-owner Eddy Morton said: “We’re cautiously optimistic as we hope it isn’t a repeat of last year where restrictions come back in, but we’re planning ahead for the events we’ve got coming up.

“I think we’re relieved both financially and emotionally as we’ve run of road in terms of planning for the future and we’ve needed something to happen.”

At the Boathouse in Rushall, owner Chris Phipps has been able to run the venue as a pub with table service, but said he was delighted about being able to fully open up again.

He said: “I’m feeling good about being able to open up as a full venue again as I’ll be able to start making money from having a full venue again, so it’s great news.

“Our plan is to return to having bands playing again, as well as karaoke nights and singers back here on a Sunday afternoon, starting on July 31 with the Lost Boys.”

Pubs in the region have also spoken of their joy at being able to fully open up again, with Matt Ward, co-owner, of the Newhall Arms in Cannock saying he couldn’t wait.

He said: “These restrictions should have gone three weeks ago and I’m happy to be able to return to close to normality as we’ve been hit so hard by it. My regulars are looking forward to it as they’ve all been double-vaccinated and feel like they’ve been treated like children, rather than grown ups, throughout the restrictions.

“We’re looking forward to having live entertainment back in the pub and being able to serve at the bar, which I know a lot of people have missed.”

Alison Heath from the Star in Penkridge said it was the best news she’d had in 16 months.

She said: “It’s been so tough for licensees and customers, but it’s good to know that we can start to get back to some form of normal.

“A lot of our customers want to stand at the bar and talk to the staff again and it means that instead of having to pick six people for a table, we don’t need to worry about numbers, which is a huge game changer for us.”

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