Publicans prepare to open doors to borough’s punters

OPEN ARMS: (From left) Anita, Thomas and Clive McNelly are happy to be welcoming visitors to their family-run pub. Picture: Steve Smyth

THE BOOKINGS are flooding in as publicans prepare to welcome back punters. 

In less than a fortnight, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes across the borough can entertain guests again — albeit outside.

Landlords across the borough have told Wokingham.Today they are excited to have their pub gardens full again.

Albert Tenkorang, of The Waterside, in Woodley, said he’s excited to be back, and open up for the community.

“We’re fully booked for the first Friday and Saturday,” he said. 

The pub’s large alfresco area should be well suited to outdoor dining in the first month, he added.

Clive McNelly, landlord of The White Horse, on Easthampstead Road, said he has spent lockdown finalising the transformation of the garden into an outdoor music destination.

Picture: Steve Smyth

“We knew pub gardens were the way forward even before the pandemic,” he said. “Since 2018 we’ve been improving the outdoor space and it’s now finished.

“Prior to the lockdown we held a lot of successful summer festivals, with music from 2om until 10pm,” he added. “We’re hoping to plan a few more this summer.”

Mr McNelly said the pub is fully-booked for the first weekend open. 

Picture: Steve Smyth

“I’m really pleased,” he said. “The staff are desperate to be back without a shadow of a doubt. We see ourselves as a family pub, and we treat our staff, and customers like family.”

Andy Rogers, owner of Bar 56 and The Redan, in Wokingham said he is equal parts excited and apprehensive.

“The last opening was much harder, because people had to have a substantial meal with their drinks,” he said. “We had to bring in food trucks to cater, and that was harder to work with if they couldn’t make a profit.

“This time, there’s no curfew, no requirement for food. It’s just outdoor, seated table service — that’s much easier.”

Emily Stevenson & Andy Rogers looking forward to the reopening at Bar Fifty Six in Rose Street. Picture: Steve Smyth

He said many of his staff have been on furlough for almost a year.

“They’re desperate to get back to work and see each other,” he added. “The hospitality industry is very close knit, because you end up spending more time together than you do with your partner.”

Mr Rogers expects the biggest challenge will be ensuring customers can stick to the rules too.

“Some people still don’t get it,” he said. “The rules are there because covid is still a thing. We do so much training, we’re always watching to follow best practice.”

The challenge will be customers doing the same, he said. 

And he’s got his fingers crossed there won’t be anymore “curveballs” from the government. 

Carole Wiliams, landlady at The Queen’s Head, said she is opening up for the community.

She is planning to use bench seats on The Terrace, opposite Shute End during the weekdays, and will open the garden for the weekend visitors. 

“It won’t be profitable,” she said. “It’s more a service to local people that live alone.”

She said providing some contact for the community is the most important thing for her, and is hoping for a warm summer ahead.

“If more people don’t travel abroad this summer, we might get some more punters,” she added. “I met some new faces last summer, it would be good to see them return.”

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