Wolverhampton microbrewery ready to welcome customers back inside

"We've faced everything that they can throw at us and we're still here, so bring on next week."

Angela and Gary Morton are looking forward to welcoming customers back
Angela and Gary Morton are looking forward to welcoming customers back

A popular Wolverhampton pub and microbrewery has spoken of its excitement at a return to more normality, having ridden a coronavirus pandemic wave for 15 months.

Hail to the Ale in Claregate, near Tettenhall, is one of many pubs ready to open indoors for the first time since October last year.

The pub, which brews its own beers as well as offering a range of ales and ciders, has still been able to operate since the start of the first national lockdown and adapt to the changes along the way.

Gary Morton, co-owner with his wife Angela, said the pub had been determined to survive and attributed the pub's survival to its customer base and its adaptability.

He said: "We've got a very good customer base and we've been able to adapt at every stage along the way.

"A lot of pubs just locked the doors and didn't do anything, but we just didn't feel like it was the right thing to do."

Mr Morton said he had put together a timeline of all the changes the pub had gone through in the last year and how it had adapted.

The timeline details the change to an off licence after all non-essential retail was closed, then the reopening of hospitality venues with table bookings and reduced capacity.

Gary Morton is ready to roll out the welcome mat to customers at Hail to the Ale

It goes on to feature the 10pm curfew, the tier system, the second and third national lockdown and the stages of the roadmap out of lockdown.

Mr Morton said that through it all, the pub had kept going and had good trade, with the sale of ales being a major factor.

He said: "At one point during last year, there really wasn't anywhere else you could get real ale, apart from us as we were the only ones doing it.

"Being a microbrewery has had its advantages as well because we were struggling at times to get beer, but I could get the materials to make our own and have a regular supply."

The pub was able to open on April 12 for outdoor service, with 44 seats available outside the pub, and will be preparing to open on Wednesday, May 19.

Mr Morton said the work had been done to ensure the area inside the pub was safe and offered extra seating.

Hail to the Ale has been able to run throughout the pandemic in different forms, with its outdoor area used on regular occasions

He said: Our plan is to have 32 seats inside which, along with our outside areas, will give us more seated capacity than ever before.

"We have done this by utilising every bit of space, even if we have had to sacrifice a few items of decorative furniture to do so.

"We're opening on Wednesday as we're not licensed for Monday and Tuesday, plus things will have settled down a bit after the mad rush of Monday and Tuesday."

He also said he thought the country was on the right track with the vaccination programme and said he felt no trepidation or unease about reopening indoors.

He said: "Bring it on, I say. The vaccination programme has become the envy of the world and seems like a well oiled machine.

"I also don't think we need to say much to encourage people to come on Wednesday as the fact we're open and we have the product is enough."

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