IT was a long few months for pubs, restaurants, and cafes which were forced to shut to visitors during the coronavirus lockdown.

Many adapted to offer collections or takeaway services during the enforced shutdown.

But venues still stood empty and much trade was lost.

So it was a relief to many of these businesses and staff that they could reopen their doors from weekend and start to show customers what the “new normal” looks like.

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In most cases it has involved customers queuing up, sitting at a distance and ordering at the table.

And although some still do not feel ready to return to socialising at this stage, plenty have gone back to find a warm and safe welcome from bosses in the hospitality trade.

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Speaking to the Star’s Backing Our Businesses campaign, Mark Hayes, landlord at The Gerard Arms in Dentons Green, said: “We only opened up on Monday, but the reaction has been great so far and it’s been good to have everyone back in safely.

“We’ve created new roles, which I’m really happy about because table service and things like that have been active in Europe for years.

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“British pubs were behind in that regard and now because of coronavirus and the restrictions we’ve brought this in.”

Like other venues, The Gerard – which has a large beer garden, complete with a marquee – is sticking tightly to the new regulations.

He added: “We have a front of house who takes people to their tables, people are served at their tables and at the moment there is a two metre distance between all the tables.

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“I totally understand if people are wary, but please be assured every precaution that can be taken has been taken and we just want people to be able to visit us, have a drink in peace and have a good time.

“We’ve also got an app ordering system which is new, so it is exciting really. It’s pushed us to update things.”

Just down the road at cafe Toast on Dentons Green Lane, owner Lisa Whittle, has also welcomed customers.

She said: “It’s about customer safety and we’ve got glass partitions between tables. Everything is sanitised straight away and nothing is left on the tables.

“Everything is so different...but feedback has been fantastic. The atmosphere is still here and it’s cosy.”

“We’re 21 per cent down on capacity and have extra people on shop floor to manage the changes but I’m delighted and outside every table has umbrella so people can sit out there safely too.

“It’s been really positive so far.”