Pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers and cinemas have reopened across Staffordshire and Cheshire this weekend.
It is the first time they have been able to do so in months since lockdown measures were introduced.
Safety measures for the hospitality sector will mean there's minimal contact between staff and customers, and tables will be kept far apart.
Social distancing measures are also in place.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging people not to "blow" the progress that's been made combating Coronavirus and has warned further lockdown measures could be imposed if needed.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is encouraging people to plan their journeys and consider their activities in line with public health advice.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “It is really welcome news that our city continues to recover from the restrictions, and our warmest wishes are with businesses again who are able to reopen after such a long and difficult few months.
“We all need to have at the front of our minds that the threat of the Coronavirus is still very real. We all need to continue to behave in the responsible manner in which people across the city have done since the outbreak of this horrible disease.
“More businesses are reopening, but things will be very different to what people are used to as licenced premises are required to operate in line with current Covid-19 guidance.”
Residents who are looking to go out are advised to consider the following safety advice:
- Think about how you’re getting there and back. There will be taxis but there may be limited numbers and train and bus times may be different. Plan in advance. Arrange for someone to pick you up if you can.
- Check whether the pubs you want to go to are open. Not all of them will be open this weekend. Those that are will probably be taking pre-bookings only. Have a think about where you want to go and have a plan beforehand.
- Payments – nearly all venues will be taking contactless payments.
- Take your face covering and hand sanitiser. Some places may not let you in if you don’t have a face covering and you’ll need one if you’re using public transport or a taxi.
- Keep your distance and wash your hands regularly. This is still the most important way to stay safe, and where possible continue to keep two metres apart.
Councillor Brown said: “As part of the reopening, people will be asked to give their details to venues. This is to allow for test and trace and must be adhered to or you won’t be allowed in.
“There will be more police patrols and our public protection team has been working with businesses to help them comply with the guidance so that safe systems are put in place. We’ve dealt directly with a number of premises in the last couple of days and had conversations with some bigger chains to satisfy ourselves about how they are planning to manage their openings.
“We all want people to be able to enjoy the easing of the lockdown, and to do so in a safe and responsible way. It is really important that the instructions from businesses are followed, and people must co-operate and give their details if businesses ask them to, so that they can be contacted by the test and trace service if necessary.
“We have a number of measures in place in the city centre and other locations such as hand sanitisers, queuing barriers and markers – arrangements that are in place to help keep people safe. But ultimately, to ensure an enjoyable and safe return to venues, people need to take responsibility themselves.”
Ange Evitts, (pictured below) landlady of the Bellringer Pub on Eaton Park, welcomed customers back for the first time on Saturday.
She said: "I have been in the trade for 27 years and I'm nervous, anxious and excited, it's going to be a new experience for everybody, as soon as you come in through the door there is hand sanitiser. There is also a test and trace system.
"I have had to swap me bar around which is now in the lounge and there is now a one-way system in place. The seating capacity, I can fit up to around 48 people in the lounge with tape around the tables and chairs and around 50 outside, but I can only get 18 people in my bar.
"Bar staff have shields, face masks and everywhere will be cleaned every 15 minutes, and once you have moved from the table they will be cleaned for the next people coming in. It is a case of everyone just being patient."