Monday, April 12, marks the second step of the Government’s roadmap.
It will see the opening of non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; and public buildings including libraries and community centres.
It will also see indoor leisure facilities including gyms reopening – but only for use by people on their own or in household groups – as well as outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas.
Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.
Hospitality venues, including pubs, cafes and restaurants, will be allowed to serve people outdoors under step two of the roadmap.
There will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew – but customers must order, eat and drink while seated.
Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.
Pubs ready for big day of welcoming back customers
“We’re so excited to finally be able to serve people after such a long wait.”
Pubs across the region are making the final preparations ahead of reopening to customers to offer outdoor service following the next stage in the lockdown roadmap.
Hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen with no curfew or requirement for a substantial meal, but with table service and the Rule of Six remaining in place.
The Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton and the Robin Hood in Willenhall are two of the pubs in the region opening up their outdoor areas to the public after months of closure.
Both pubs have new licensees who have yet to serve one pint since moving in and who are looking forward to welcoming people to their pubs.
Jo Selman and her partner Martin Cadman became landlords of the Lych Gate Tavern in December, with Mrs Selman saying there was a feeling of excitement about reopening the pub.
She said: “It’s been such a long time coming and we haven’t been able to serve anyone since we moved in just before lockdown, so everyone is just so excited.
“I don’t think anyone I know is nervous or dubious about the pubs being reopened and they’re all used to signing in and sanitising, so we’re just looking forward to a busy day. We’re just hoping that we get the good weather on Monday, but we’ve got smoking shelters which are undercover and heated and only two of the tables are exposed to the elements.”
Jayne Murphy and her daughter Alex are also getting ready to open up the beer garden at the Robin Hood, having only taken over at the beginning of March.
Mrs Murphy said the last few months had been very difficult, but she was excited about beginning a new chapter at the pub.
She said: “It’s been a long time coming and we’re going to give people that extra special feeling of excitement at being out and seeing other people. It’s not exactly like mixing inside a pub, but it will feel a lot like my pub is my back garden, and we still want to see people smiling and enjoying themselves.”
Salons ready to sweep in and rescue our hair
Hairdressers, salons and barbers are getting ready to welcome clients back into their shops on Monday.
The Government’s announcement confirmed that the beauty industry would be able to reopen as planned in the country’s roadmap out of lockdown.
In the Black Country, salons have been closed since November when the last national lockdown was confirmed.
This has hit the industry hard, with huge financial losses, as well as damage to staff members’ mental health.
Rob Caudwell, 36, originally from Sedgley, owns Wisteria Hair Salon on Park Road in Woodsetton.
Speaking about the closure of his business, he said: “I had my first Saturday job when I was 14-years-old in hairdressing, and I have never done anything else. “I have owned Wisteria since 2014.
“Lockdown for every small business it has been tough financially, especially not knowing what is happening and how long you will potentially be closed for but we are so glad to be back open soon.”
When salons were allowed to reopen following the first lockdown which began in March 2020, measures have been implemented to ensure the safety of customers and staff members.
Changes include, not being able to serve drinks, wearing face coverings, not waiting inside the salon and social distancing. The Government is also now asking everyone to get tested regularly, particularly those going out to work.
Despite the challenges and changes faced, Rob and his team are feeling optimistic for the future and looking forward to seeing their clients once again.
Rob added: “Not much has changed from the last lockdown, we have screens, masks and visors.
“We are extremely busy and are in fact currently recruiting for a senior stylist and manager because of the increase in demand for the services we offer.”
Campsite bookings go 'crazy'
A campsite owner says his booking have gone “crazy” ahead of his business’s reopening on Monday.
Justin Hopley, who runs Hopleys Family Camping site, in Bewdley, is “really “excited” to welcome customers back.
People with caravans and campervans will be allowed to use campsites again next week, with new measures in place due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Public toilets will be closed off and all facilities must be self-contained to individual caravans.
As part of a gradual easing of lockdown measures, campers in tents will be allowed back on sites on May 17.
Mr Hopley, aged 53 from Bewdley, said the delay was “a little bit disappointing” but added: “We have to take things slowly.”
He continued: “We just hope the weather stays nice. We are all keen to get people back.
“The only thing is we can only have caravans at the moment, until May 17, then we can have the tents. That is the rules and we have to stick to the rules.
“As soon as Boris announced we could open, it went crazy online bookings.
“Most weekends are almost full, some of the bank holidays and the May one, they are all full.
“It is getting harder for people to get on. There is still space in the week, in the holidays, but hopefully they will start filling up.”
He said the new rules that no facilities are allowed to reopen has creating “a bit of confusion” with customers.
“We had to transfer a few bookings, or refund them, causing a bit of confusion,” he said. “Generally, it has been a very good response.”
With the ongoing pandemic causing uncertainty around holidays abroad, Mr Hopley is expecting a busy year for campsites, with people opting for staycations.
“You talk to people about buying caravans, they are all going to be scarce,” he said.
“I think a lot more people have bought motor homes, it seems people are getting geared up to stay around the Midlands.”
The latest lockdown has been a struggle for many people. Thankfully for Mr Hopley, he said the loss of custom is less severe during the quieter winter months.
He said: “This lockdown has not been as bad as the summer. Last year, we didn’t open until July. It has not been so bad through the winter, because we wouldn’t be that busy anyway. But it is a shame we missed Easter.”
The campsite has a kitchen and a beer garden on site.
Charity shop: It is vital we stay open now
A well-loved Wolverhampton charity shop is looking forward to welcoming its customers through its doors once again.
Compton Care’s eagerly anticipated retail plus superstore opened in October 2020, for just five weeks, before having to close because of lockdown.
Grace Lee, communications manager at Compton Care, said: “When we first opened, we had a really great response, people were queuing out of the door and the shop did really well.
“When we had to close the doors again it was devastating really. Our 25 charity shops generate approximately £1million of income each year which goes directly towards patient care.
“Compton is also part of the community, it was hard for us to not see the regular customers.
“We also have around 500 volunteers who have not been able to come into our stores, and although we have been checking in with them regularly, it has been hard for us and them.
“It has not just affected us financially but also emotionally.”
The store sells everything from home ware, technology, designer goods and more.
Staff at Compton Care are hopeful that this will be the last lockdown they faced and that their stores can remain open permanently.
Grace added: “Our shops have been closed for most of 2020, to stay open would mean the world to us.
“Throughout the last year we have had a fantastic community who have continued to donate where they can.
“We also took on extra support helping the NHS with the Covid fight, which meant we got some additional grants and support.
“However, as we go back to normal, we won’t get those grants anymore so it is vital that the shops stay open so we can plug some of the gap created by the money we have lost. We are OK at the moment, but we have lost at least £1 million just from our charity shops being closed, and if we do not start to regain some of this lost income we will really start to feel it.
“As some of our volunteers are cautious about coming back or waiting for vaccines we are also looking for more volunteers to join the Compton Family, more information on this can be found on our website.”
Shoppers visiting stores must wear a mask, and follow all safety precautions.
Anyone who wishes to donate items to Compton Care stores should contact their closest shop ahead of time and book a slot to drop off their donations.
Compton Care supports patients and their families who are living with incurable conditions.
Attraction looking ahead to wild times
The director of a Staffordshire wildlife centre says she feels like they’ve been moving from “crisis to crisis” over the last two years – after facing numerous lockdowns, fire damage, bird flu controls and flooding.
But Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre, near Eccleshall, is finally looking ahead as they reopen to visitors once again on Monday.
A fire ripped through three enclosures in March 2019, killing three giant tortoises, a meerkat and around 15 fruit bats. The public helped raise more than £20,000 after the devastating fire – but more than a year later it was faced with another crisis when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Gentleshaw spent the majority of 2020 behind closed doors, and was also faced with avian influenza controls and flooding in early January.
From Monday, the centre, which has more than 150 animals on site, will be limiting numbers allowed on site – and all tickets must be pre-booked in advance.
Jenny Morgan, director, said: “It has been organised chaos the last few days as we prepare to reopen – we have been sweeping, mopping and cleaning. But we are really excited and relieved to finally be reopening to the public.
“We will have a pre-booking system through our website so we can keep details for track and trace, the number of people we have on site will be restricted and we will also operate one-way systems. There will also be no flying displays.
“It feels like we have been stumbling from crisis to crisis – we’ve had a fire, numerous lockdowns, bird flu controls and then the floods! But the public have been fantastic for us, it’s only because of them we are still going.”
West Midland Safari Park, in Bewdley, will also reopen on Monday. Managing director, Chris Kelly, said “After what has been a very long winter and an extremely tough 18 months for everyone during this global pandemic, we are thrilled to be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, starting with the park’s reopening next week.”
Dudley Zoo and Castle’s director Derek Grove added: “We are delighted to be given the green light to reopen on Monday and welcome back the visitors who have supported us so generously throughout the three periods of lockdown. The zoo site is fortunate in having wide paths and green open spaces to allow visitors to social distance while having an enjoyable and safe day out.”
Other attractions reopening on Monday include Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust, Alton Towers and Drayton Manor Theme Park.
Gym owner pumped to re-open
A co-owner of a gym in the Black Country cannot wait to open the doors once again as restrictions are lifted on Monday.
Santino Sellick, aged 39, who co-owns the Iron Masters Gym in Bilston with his brother, Carlo, aged 38, has been preparing for the re-opening and gym-goers will find extra facilities on offer and redevelopment of the shower area.
He said: “We are overjoyed about the re-opening for both ourselves and people who use the gym and the community as a whole.
“Many people will have suffered from physical and mental anguish and social isolation during the lockdowns.
“They will now be able to get back to the gym and social connection which is something we are very big on offering.
“We advertise ourselves as a community base and will be running a mental health programme every Sunday and the first Saturday we will be doing a ladies hour as we are aware some might find it uncomfortable going into a gym.
“We try to reach out into the community and also do youth development work and hold charity fun days.
“It is not just a case of opening the gym but offering once again all the community elements.
“We will be open 9am to 9pm during the week and 9am to 4pm at weekends.
“We are very fortunate in that we have two local businesses supporting us and they are DIS Graphics, the Wolverhampton official signage printers, and Tile Choice.
“We are very grateful for their support.
“During the time we have been closed because of the restrictions we have used this to redevelop the business and have crated a sunbed room and redevelopment the shower area.
“This was done with the help of Tile Choice. We have also introduced new pieces of equipment.
Since the announcement of the possibility of re-opening Santino has been working hard to ensure that when the doors open everything will be just right.
He said: “From our point of view, the effect lockdown has had on households, regardless of the business, is really startling.
“As a business you’re still paying rent on the premises and you’re hoping the business will pick up from where it left off.
“But the effect on the local community has been huge and by re-opening we hope to reach out to the community once again.”
Anyone wanting to know what the gym offers can go onto the Facebook or Instagram online sites.