'The British are very hardy' - North Norfolk's hospitality sector reopens
- Credit: Stuart Anderson
Life has flooded back into north Norfolk’s pubs and cafes as residents return to their local watering holes and tourists check into seaside getaways.
Bartenders, chefs and waiting staff - many of whom have been off work for months - were out happily setting up tables, chairs and even a few marquees in the frosty Monday morning air, eager for what the first day of relaxed lockdown restrictions would bring.
At the King’s Head pub in Letheringsett, near Holt, general manager Jessie Petrie said opening again was “such a relief”.
She said: “When we had to close last year it was heartbreaking packing everything up.
"I was really nervous about reopening, thinking either everyone is going to turn up or no-one going to turn up. The last two weeks have been the most stressful just thinking about what was going to happen.”
But Mrs Petrie said she was thrilled with the reopening day turn-out and the spacious garden had a busy, but relaxed atmosphere, dozens of people enjoying themselves amid the sounds of birdsong and the smell of barbecued food from its new food 'shack'.
Among the first customers there were Letheringsett residents Linda Arthur and Jan Betambeau.
Miss Arthur said they were thrilled to once again be able to raise a glass of wine at the pub.
She said: “We’ve been waiting for this for five months. It’s so lovely to be back. Especially in a village, it’s very important to have somewhere to come and meet people.”
Many food and drink businesses have learned new ways of doing things so they could welcome customers.
Steve and Lisa Dunsire of the Offshore Coffee House on Sheringham Promenade have set up 10 tables nearby, which they said had already been well used, despite the sunny, but windy scene at the coast.
Mr Dunsire said: “We had a couple of people in at 8.30am. The British are very hardy.”
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He said he was certain this was going to be a busy year.
Mr Dunsire said: “Europe and foreign travel is going to be pretty much finished this year so you’re going to have a lot of extra people on top of the regulars.
“Everyone we know who has got an AirBnB or holiday cottage for rent are all charging down. It’s going to be a busy week. But we’ve been so lucky here with Covid in north Norfolk compared with a lot of places."
There were also plenty of people about a bit further along the prom at the Two Lifeboats pub, which has seating overlooking the sea as well as in a courtyard.
Stephan Marriot, landlord, said they had 65 customers booked in for their first day and they expected to do around 140 meals.
Mr Marriot said: “I didn’t expect so much activity straight away. I would say 20pc of people are from out of town and the others are just local.”
Chris Gurney, assistant manager who has worked at the pub for eight years, said: “It’s just lovely to be back at work.
"It’s great to see some regular faces again and resume a sense of normality.”
And at the Grey Seal Coffee in the High Street, Florence Fassih had set up two south-facing tables for visitors to enjoy their first coffee and cake in months.
She said: “It’s been really good so far. It’s so nice to have people sitting outside again, it feels much more normal.”
Among her first customers were Steve and Mary Wilson from Reepham.
Mr Wilson said having outdoor seating again had made a “huge difference”.
He said: “I cycle quite a bit, not to be able to cycle somewhere, sit down and have a cuppa and cycle back wasn’t nearly as good.”