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Super Saturday begins with queues outside pubs and hairdressers in Kent as lockdown rules ease

Queues for pubs and haircuts formed as landlords have welcomed people back into their venues with open arms.

For many struggling pubs, restaurants and hairdressers across Kent, who can once again throw open their doors to the public, 'Super Saturday' was a long-awaited chance to be back in business.

Jenny Baker and Martin Hephzibah outside The Muggleton (37808301)
Jenny Baker and Martin Hephzibah outside The Muggleton (37808301)

And some people took an early chance to experience something approaching normality.

As the Muggleton Inn Wetherspoons prepared to open at 8am in Maidstone's High Street, a queue took place outside.

At the head of it was Jenny Baker and Martin Hephzibah, from Maidstone.

Ms Baker said: "I'm looking forward to this. Lockdown hasn't been too bad and luckily my finances haven't been too badly affected, but today is about having a coffee and a chat with friends, and then getting a food shop done."

Mr Hepzibah, who is off later to the Maidstone Snooker Club in Buckland Hill, was not worried about the Government's decision to throw open the pub doors on a Saturday.

People waiting outside The Muggleton Inn in Maidstone for a Wetherspoons breakfast
People waiting outside The Muggleton Inn in Maidstone for a Wetherspoons breakfast

He added: "I don't think it matters what day they do it on, it should be ok."

By 8am several hairdressers and barbers were doing a healthy trade.

Doug Frame, waiting outside Kamz barbers in Bank Street said the 'main event' of his day would be getting a haircut and he hadn't been tempted to get the clippers out for a so-called 'Covid cut.'

At The Pullman in Folkestone's Church Street, they are welcoming guests with service for food and drinks at tables, which has to be booked in advance for a two-hour time slot and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

For those coming just for a drink, the pub is operating an over-25s policy. On arrival, staff are giving customers an explanation of how the new system works.

One of the first drinkers at Wetherspoon’s Belle and Lion in Sheerness High Street was retired tailor Peter DeMoore, 74.

He had nabbed a window seat by 10.15 and had lined up two glasses of Stella Artois.

He said: “This is my first day out since lockdown. I live on my own and usually pop in every day for something to eat and drink. It’s so nice to be back.”

In the other window seat were friends Peter Tatum, 28, (left) and Lee Skillett, 24, with Peter having to dash off to have hisfirst haircut since lockdown.

Lee, nurturing a San Miguel, said: “I had mine cut at 8.30am. Then I went home to change and came here for breakfast breakfast and a pint.”

Pubs in Sheerness reopen. Peter DeMoore enjoys a pint
Pubs in Sheerness reopen. Peter DeMoore enjoys a pint

The forklift truck driver who works in Sittingbourne, added: “I haven’t been furloughed so it’s just nice to get out of the house.

“I had been looking forward to getting back to the pub but of the two, the haircut was the more important.”

Ben Cuthbert, co-owner of L&B Restaurants, which operates The Pullman, Harbour Inn, Market Square and Luben in Folkestone, said: "It's really exciting, first to open was this morning was Market Square at 9am, it was really good to see some familiar faces again.

"What we do is hospitality, and at the end of the day our venues are nothing without people spending time and enjoying them.

"There have been lots of preparations, we have built screens through the pub, we have put screens in front of the bar to protect the staff, we have sanitiser stations. We also have a table top ordering app coming. We tried to have that ready, but had a delay, but it will be here soon.

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"I believe we have put everything in place to create a safe space."

Mr Cuthbert said he had used the time in lockdown for a refurb of The Pullman and developing a takeaway service.

Friends Mike Hedges, left, and Matt Lane, both from Folkestone, were first through the reopened doors of The Pullman this lunchtime.

Mike, enjoying a pint of Gamma Ray, said: "It's great to be out again. Lockdown's been tough, but good to be in the pub again."

Matt, drinking a cold Peroni, said: "It's been boring the last few months, it's great to be here."

Other pubs in the town have decided not to open on the first day the rules were relaxed.

The Park Inn Hotel in Radnor Park Road will be delaying the return of drinkers until July 20. In a post to their Facebook page, they said: "We have decided to wait till the rush of everywhere opening has eased and to give us a chance to get the premises sorted for your safety."

Friends Mike Hedges, left, and Matt Lane, raise a glass as pubs across the country emerged from lockdown
Friends Mike Hedges, left, and Matt Lane, raise a glass as pubs across the country emerged from lockdown

The Beer Shop Folkestone, in Rendezvous Street, which only opened shortly before the lockdown began in March, is also delaying opening for drink-in customers, however they will be extending their takeaway hours and continuing to offer a local delivery service.

Neil King, landlord of the Firkin Alehouse, has also carried on supplying his regulars with takeaway and delivery options during lockdown, but he was glad to see familiar faces back in his Cheriton Place micropub today.

He said: "Our capacity is 12 people inside, and 10-12 outside, but the weather being what it is, that isn't great today.

"It's good to have people back in the place, chatting to each other, still here supporting the place. There was a small queue outside before I opened at midday. All the regulars seem happy to be back.

"We are still doing takeaway, and then one delivery slot each day in the evening."

Tony Coggan was one of the first punters back at the Firkin Alehouse in Folkestone as lockdown continues to ease
Tony Coggan was one of the first punters back at the Firkin Alehouse in Folkestone as lockdown continues to ease

Tony Coggan, a freight train driver from Sandgate Hill, Folkestone, was enjoying a pint of Oakham Inferno on what landlord Neil jokingly described as the sensible side of the room.

He said: "The pubs opening is the best thing that's happened in four months. It's like we've never been away. It's all the same people, everyone is happy, not just drinking out of a can at home."

Restrictions on who you can see where and when have also changed.

From today, two households or social bubbles can meet in any location indoors or outdoors. You can meet up with different households at different times but always socially distance.

Outside you can meet in groups of up to six people from different households while following social distancing guidelines. You can now stay overnight at one other household.

Partitions have been installed in The Pullman in Folkestone to keep distance between parties at separate tables
Partitions have been installed in The Pullman in Folkestone to keep distance between parties at separate tables
The Pullman has numerous hand sanitiser stations installed in the pub to help staff and customers keep clean
The Pullman has numerous hand sanitiser stations installed in the pub to help staff and customers keep clean

It is still against the law to meet in groups larger than 30 - which means that although theatres can open they can not welcome audiences yet.

Government guidance says: "At this stage, it is not yet safe for live performances, including dramatic, musical or comedy performances, to take place in front of a live audience.

"This is because of the increased risk of transmission associated with these types of activities or as a result of patrons needing to raise their voices to be heard over background music.

"There may be an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are singing, chanting, shouting or conversing loudly."But not all businesses can reopen today, much to the disappointment of many traders who had been preparing for the big day.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news as Kent starts to reopen here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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