Bookings filling up restaurants' diaries as April 12 nears

People get out for the first Saturday night since lockdown.
Claire and Pam Froude

People wrapped up to dine outside when Norfolk was in Tier 2 in December, and business owners hope they will show the same spirit if the April 12 easing of restrictions goes ahead. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Pubs and restaurants with outdoor space are gearing up for a busy few weeks as bookings fill up calendars, with many saying they believe the public will turn out whatever the weather.

From April 12 - if the government's roadmap goes to plan - hospitality businesses will be able to serve customers outdoors.

Owners are preparing for the al fresco reopening, with some creating outdoor space and others revamping or expanding existing areas.

And many days throughout April are filling up, with businesses in bigger areas such as Norwich finding themselves particularly busy.

Glenn Walker, operations director at the Rooftop Gardens in Norwich, on Rose Lane, said bookings so far had been "fantastic", with the first weekend after April 12 and following Saturday already fully booked.

Rooftop Gardens, Norwich. Picture: Louisa Baldwin

Rooftop Gardens, Norwich. Picture: Louisa Baldwin - Credit: Archant

"People have been tucked up inside for too long and want to get back to normality now," he said.

He said he was confident it would be busy "come rain or shine".

MORE: To see a list of many of the Norfolk and Waveney restaurants reopening in April, click here.

Similarly, at Gonzo's Tea Room on Norwich's London Street, bookings are steadily filling up throughout the week, with the weekend of April 17 and 18 looking particularly busy already.

The new normal, how life is now after Covid-19 restrictions have been eased. Partitions have been ad

The new normal, how life is now after Covid-19 restrictions have been eased. Partitions have been added between tables at the rooftop bar at Gonzos. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

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But owner Mike Baxter said they were making sure to keep some slots back for walk-in customers, as restaurants attempt to create a sense of normality.

Success for businesses reopening in April has in part been laid at the feet of the weather, with some owners fearful that April showers may keep customers away.

The new normal, how life is now after Covid-19 restrictions have been eased. One of the floor signs

The new normal, how life is now after Covid-19 restrictions have been eased. One of the floor signs in the Royal Arcade. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Early weather forecasts suggest it will be average weather for the month, with some saying conditions could be around 10C and 11C that week.

In December, when Norfolk left the second lockdown and entered Tier 2, rules meant people could only dine with another household if they were seated outside, a condition which failed to deter many people.

Nicola Colchester runs the Recruiting Sergeant in Horstead, the Rising Sun in Coltishall, the Black Boys Hotel in Aylsham, Bucks Arms in Blickling and Red Lion in Eaton, and said she was keeping her fingers crossed for warm weather.

View of the Rising Sun on the River Bure at Coltishall on a June day.Picture: James BassCopy: Lets T

View of the Rising Sun on the River Bure at Coltishall on a June day.Picture: James BassCopy: Lets TalkFor: Lets TalkEN Pics © 2006 Tel: (01603) 772434 - Credit: Lets Talk © 2006

Reservations in areas they were opening up for bookings - mainly those with cover or umbrellas - have been strong so far, she said, with some space left available for people to arrive on the day.

"If the sun is shining and it's warm I think it will be wonderful," she said, "and if it's pouring down with rain it might not."

But she said in December their patios were still full, with people dressing for the weather and using hot water bottles, and said she thought people would have the same attitude in April.

Rob Williamson, general manager of the White Horse in at Brancaster. Picture: White Horse Inn

Rob Williamson, general manager of the White Horse in at Brancaster. Picture: White Horse Inn - Credit: Archant

Rob Williamson, general manager at the White Horse in Brancaster, shared that sentiment. 

He said they had seen a recent uplift in demand, and said in particular those with holiday or second homes were keen to return to the area.

He said they would have parasols up, disposable ponchos available and their marsh-side marquee in place.

But he added: "What we saw towards the end of last year was the British public were pretty hardy, and they were dressed for the weather."

The view over the marshes from the White Horse in Brancaster. Picture: Supplied by the White Horse

The view over the marshes from the White Horse in Brancaster. Picture: Supplied by the White Horse - Credit: Archant

He said they were only accepting bookings for their terrace, with other spaces open to walk-ins on the day, to create a relaxed environment.

"We wanted to create this environment where you could come down whenever you wanted and not make it too formal," he said.

Ricky Malt, of the The Lion at Thurne and the White Horse at Neatishead, said they had decided not to take bookings, but were receiving regular calls and messages requesting tables throughout April.

In particular, he said, many were from those looking to have a staycation in the area. Under the roadmap, staycations in "self-contained accommodation" would be allowed from April 12.

He said they had invested in parasols, but were expecting demand to depend on the weather, with balmy conditions likely to result in a busy day for the Lion in particular.

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