Oldham's pubs and restaurants gear up for the 'new normal'

Reporter: Simon Smedley
Date published: 02 July 2020

Excitement coupled with a degree of cautious anticipation appears to be the order of the day as Oldham's hospitality sector gears up for re-opening on Saturday.

The much-heralded return of pubs and restaurants brings with it plenty of uncertainty as the 'new normal' takes centre stage after well over three months since the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

And that would be borne out when hearing the words of David Mowbray, the licensee at popular Chadderton pub the Colliers Arms.

David is clearly relieved to have the chance to open up for business again on Saturday as so much revenue has been lost, but heading back into the pub or restaurant won't quite be the same yet, certainly in the coming weeks and months.

Popular boozer the Colliers must take social distancing into account from Saturday, there's hand sanitisers everywhere, staff PPE, one in and one out of the toilets, and no standing at the bar.

It's a whole new ball game for the hospitality sector, but David is clearly ready for the challenge at his pub.

"Two days before opening there is a mixture of feelings," he told the Chronicle.

"Of course we're excited that we can finally open the doors after three-and-a-half months, but we're also nervous because we don't know what to expect.

The new socially distanced table layout in the Colliers' long-popular beer garden

"Have our customers forgotten us, or are they gasping for a pint?

"It's a mixture of anticipation mainly, but there's other feelings too.

"Fundamentally there are a lot of changes, but I also want to make sure the Colliers remains a welcoming pub.

"Let's just see what happens.

"We're going to make mistakes, but all I ask at this stage is for customers to please be patient.

"It's going to be a learning curve for us all in what's going to be the 'new normal'.

"Our capacity is going to be a lot smaller than what it was previously, so we have to be mindful of that, but we don't want to be turning anyone away.

"We're not introducing these new measures because we want to, we're doing it because of two things.

"We need to keep people safe, and we are being told to do these things of course.

"We have to limit our capacity and that, unfortunately, will affect availability of the pub to all our customers.

"Any business that's based on footfall needs to get as many people through the door so they can pay the bills.

"We're no different.

"We've had no income for three-and-a-half months, but thankfully social media feedback would indicate that our customers are out there and they do want to come back and support us.

"I just hope and pray that we can support and accommodate anyone that wants to come in the Colliers Arms."

Five weeks ago the Chronicle reported how David was both fearful and angry at Punch Taverns' stance regarding their insistence to still charge him full rent during the enforced lockdown.

Nothing has changed on that score so it's imperative David enjoys a successful return to business during the second half of 2020.

Meanwhile, the White Hart at Lydgate (pictured above) is also ready to re-open its doors this weekend, and will be introducing a new dining concept for coming out of Covid.

The Brass Monkey Brasserie is set to take up residence in the Oak Room and Pavilion, which are normally used for weddings.

The rear garden now has 20 tables spread out to provide a mix of individual ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Two Household Bubbles’ and the pub will shortly be launching its new app for customers to download and use to order drinks and pizzas in the pub and garden areas.

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