Landmark seaside hotel serves 100 by midday as lockdown eases
- Credit: Liz Coates
People have surged back to pubs and cafes hailing the simple pleasure of a real chair and proper china crockery.
After months of trailing the streets with cardboard cups and nowhere to sit, south-facing tables were among the best-placed to benefit as pub gardens, gyms, hairdressers, and non-essential shops were allowed to reopen.
Vivienne George and Mary Brown, both of Caister, were among diners soaking up the sun at Gorleston's Pier Hotel, which arguably boasts one of the best seaside locations in Norfolk.
Mrs Brown said it was lovely to be served a drink in a proper cup after months of drinking from takeaway containers.
"It is always lovely along here," she said. "But to be able to sit in a proper seat with a proper cup - it's a whole different atmosphere today."
Meanwhile Jon and Frances Whitcombe, of Hopton, also headed to the spot for a hot drink and a bowl of chips, amid a hubbub of chatter.
"It is everything really," said Mrs Whitcombe. "It's a way of life.
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"We just had to come for a walk. We had been gazing in and hoping it would open soon. You cannot beat it."
Margaret Goss, manager at the family-run hotel, said she was heartened to see so many familiar faces back on the patio.
Having opened at 8.30am for the first time since Boxing Day, the small team had served more than 100 people by midday.
"The weather is perfect, there is no breeze, and although it is a bit chilly people have wrapped up," she said.
"We didn't know how it was going to be and it has been getting busier and busier but we are thrilled to be open and to see our lovely regulars coming back."
The hotel will open on May 17, heralding what looks to be a busy season as bookings flood in for the main summer months.
She also hailed the support of her "amazing" staff. So far only around 20pc had been able to come back to work, but having such a keen team meant so much, she added.
Elsewhere along the lower esplanade a sprinkling of tables were occupied and The Yacht Shop was busy putting out its array of colourful beach balls and buckets and spades.
People could also be seen enjoying the service and views on The Cliff Hotel's terrace.
The Feathers in Gorleston High Street had most of its outside tables taken and by lunch time a queue had formed outside the William Adams.