Published: 14:30, 12 April 2021
| Updated: 16:31, 14 April 2021
Outdoor seating at pubs and restaurants was in high demand this lunchtime as people celebrated the latest easing of lockdown.
Today's latest step on the Government's roadmap for lifting pandemic restrictions saw friends, families and co-workers stop for a drink or bite to eat at venues in Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and beyond.
Such was the eagerness to get back to in-person socialising that some people had even taken the day off work specially for the occasion.
Joy was not confined to customers, owners and staff of hospitality businesses have been hard hit by the on-off restrictions of the past year and there was delight that doors are now open once again.
In Maidstone there were queues outside town centre pubs, including The Brenchley, where a steady stream of drinkers waited patiently for a spot in the outdoor seating area.
Eddie Haywood, 49, had booked time off work to visit the Brenchley with his 26-year-old son, also Eddie.
"I thought I am going to come back and support our pubs," the father said.
"You can forget about work, it's a bit of normality, have a few jokes, it's what you want."
Pals Carl Butler, Otis Fellows and James Sandison had also taken the day off work for a pub crawl around Maidstone, starting the The Brenchley.
Carl said the pub trip was "emotional" for the friends of almost 20 years, while Otis added: "We have missed it so much."
In Tunbridge Wells co-workers from Austin Recruitment had stopped in at The Barn for a lunch break before heading back to the office.
Also at the venue in Lonsdale Gardens were Joyce Basit and Millie Querubin.
"It's really nice to be able to go out for food that's not been cooked at home," Joyce said.
"I'm having steak for breakfast, it's the first meal I've had since everything opened and it's the atmosphere if being around other people that we've really missed."
Philippe Sorak, manager at The Barn, said: "It was snowing when we were serving breakfast and now the sun has come out for lunch.
"It's lovely to see faces again and to see people enjoying themselves. It has been hard work but this has made it worth it."
As the sun threatened to break through the clouds in the County Town, Jay Jones was among those who had headed to the Duke of Marlborough and gone into the pub's beer garden.
"It is nice to be back," said the 49-year-old from Maidstone who was enjoying a Fosters on the Union Street venue.
"This has been my local for the past 17 years. I have been a publican myself, I know a lot of people that run pubs, like Dan and Jan here.
"I like the pub and the entertainment they have here is brilliant."
Stan Faulkes, who lives near Yalding, was another enjoying an afternoon pint as he supped on his Guinness.
The 60-year-old sales manager said: "It is good to have a proper pint, to be honest. It is very nice here, and I can't wait for the bands to start. That is why I come in here."
Danny Penman, who runs the pub alongside mum Jan, said: "It is nice to be open again.
"It is good we can start getting back on with our lives a little bit."
He said tables were fully booked from 1pm, adding: "I imagine today and tomorrow will be busy.
"It will then probably die down a bit but, then, be busy again at the weekend.
"Over the next week or so, I think the novelty factor will wear off a bit and we will get into a bit more of a routine. It is all new to us, as well as the customers. We just ask everyone to have a bit of patience with us."
Additional reporting by Katie Heslop, Thomas Reeves and Liane Castle