Remember back in the pre-third-lockdown days of December, when the cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants of York were all open to enter? When a coffee out, or a meal out, or a beer out, were not a distant memory? Well, having been forced to shut their doors for over three whole months, those times are finally returning! 

Elsewhere, it had been longer; in Leeds and in London tier 3 had closed hospitality a month earlier, in Leicester it felt like forever. York and others in tier 2 were rewarded for lower infection rates by venues remaining open; until, at the end of 2020, the whole country locked down. Again. 

Now, on the roadmap out of lockdown, we reach a welcome junction; on the 12th April pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes can reopen and the public can return. Whilst we’re still not allowed to step foot inside, that must wait until the 17th May, venues are able to serve customers outdoors. And York is ready.

After adapting effectively to previous restrictions, understandable safety concerns are eased by the precautions put in place by these admirable businesses. Some are familiar, such as track and trace, socially distanced seats, table service, and masks when moving. Others that you’ll remember from before have been removed, notably the 10pm curfew and the necessity to order food with alcohol. 

Within these regulations, venues are keen to use their spaces in the most sensible and welcoming set ups. From one way systems to taking advanced bookings, from outdoor marquees to omnipresent hand sanitisers, you can be assured that every thought and effort has been made to create an environment that is both safe and enjoyable by people who have become adept at adapting. 

Importantly, the businesses are not alone in showing flexibility; York city council have welcomed the opening of outdoor spaces by allowing some places to have seating on the streets. In addition to innovative pedestrian zones and dining areas, picnic tables and extra benches, York is changing to the situation and retaining its appeal. 

With many venues having limited or no outside area in normal circumstances, it is vital that the city works together in these ways to make the reopening of society a collective success. And by going out, supporting local independent businesses, understanding their restrictions, and enjoying their creations, we can all play our part in that.

We asked Flo from the fabulous Partisan for an inside view on outside opening: 

What changes have you made and what have been the challenges? 

We were renting a marquee and now we’ve bought one, slightly bigger. Carol Douglas is making some amazing canvas to hang on its walls. The challenges are on the everyday; the weather, staff that got other jobs whilst we were closed, and following the pages and pages of regulations…

What can customers expect?

We will do what we do well: good food, excellent ingredients, great coffee and cakes. But expect queueing, masks, rules and questions; we have to do it. The marquee is going to be a great space to meet outdoors, just make sure you dress as if you were going to sit on a bench in the park; we have heaters but we also leave quite a lot of the sides open for ventilation.

What are you most looking forward to about reopening? 

We missed the regulars, the banter, meeting new people, the art shows, the flower deliveries, the social aspect and atmosphere at Partisan. We will try and recreate it as much as possible, sanitisers at the ready! 

Images: The Vintage Rose, Dyls, Partisan (outdoor marquee), Partisan