Lockdown loosening relief as Biggleswade and Sandy businesses welcome customers back inside
'We've been through a horrible time, so let's put a smile on our faces and get back to how life should be'
Biggleswade and Sandy businesses reopened for the first time in months or prepared to welcome customers back indoors as the next stage of lockdown restrictions relaxed on Monday (May 17).
Now, pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants are allowed to serve customers inside; indoor entertainment (museums, cinemas and children's play areas) can reopen; theatres, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadiums can open; and organised adult sports and exercise classes can restart indoors.
Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can also reopen.
Publican Eamonn Watson, of The Rose, who was able to open his Biggleswade beer garden on April 12, said: "Even when the weather was bad, we were still really busy outside. It was so much better than I ever thought it would be.
"We had some heating out there and we tried to make it nice and as comfortable as we could.
"Monday [May 17] wasn't that busy. It was a bit disappointing, but I think people have other things to do, like eating out and cinemas are open. But I'm optimistic that everything will be fine.
"On Saturday we have got entertainment from Soul Power - 7.30pm for an 8pm start - and on Sunday we have a comedy night which is sold out."
The following Saturday, May 29, punters can also look forward to a Bon Jovi tribute - Wrong Jovi! To book your place for either band, call: 07874976668.
Also, keeping positive, Tracy Crossland, owner of Mama's Coffee Shop in Sandy, told the Chronicle: "I reopened today [May 20] and this week I had a cleaning company come in and give it a good spruce up!
"It's been a good day. I had a couple of customers come in and it was their first time out. They were a bit cautious, but happy to come in and use the sanitiser. They were glad to be almost back to normal again.
"It's been a hard year, but I was doing takeaways, so people could grab a coffee before their walks.
"We've been through a horrible time, so let's put a smile on our faces and get back to how life should be."
Thanks to donations, over the past year, Tracy was able to hold a raffle with a lunch as a prize for NHS workers, as well as supporting the free school meals campaign and supplying sandwiches.
Tracy added: "Thank you to the community of Sandy. They have kept their heads up. And thank you to my customers - they're the bees knees!"
Meanwhile, new opportunities have opened up for some entrepreneurs.
Joe Tutt, who owns Nonno Joe's and Stairway (Biggleswade) with Tasha Healey, said: "We've been doing takeaways all year, then opened the garden up, and finally opened up fully yesterday (May 19).
"Our customers love the garden, and now people know it's there it's quite popular.
"Me and Tasha have also gone in on a joint venture and taken over George's Hall and turned it into the music bar and kitchen."
The duo have lots planned for Stairway, including DJs on Fridays, live bands every Saturday (followed by a DJ), and roast dinner with live music on Sundays.
Stairway had its 'soft' opening on May 19, and Joe and Tasha are saving the grand opening for June after restrictions ease.
Joe said: "We thought one of these chains would snap it up, but the previous owners are local and wanted to keep it with local people that care about the town.
"It's a beautiful building and we want to respect its natural features.
"It was built around 1910 and Harry Houdini performed there in the early 20th century. It also had morale boosting events during World War Two."
He added: "We are grateful for the support from the town and are trying our best to give back something good."
Deputy Mayor of Biggleswade, Cllr Grant Fage, said: "We've seen now most of our town centre reopen. It's really exciting and I'm looking forward to seeing how well they can trade. We're hoping that there will be a demand from the people of Biggleswade and that places easily fill up much of their capacity - we're starting to see that at weekends.
"I'm looking forward to five weeks time when everything should open as normal, and we can bounce back - hopefully - to a kind of normality.
"The town centre is moving in the right direction, and it's great to see so many businesses who have struggled receive so much trade again."
Central Bedfordshire Councillor, Dr Hayley Whitaker, of Biggleswade South, said: "It's fantastic that things are easing and it's fantastic for local businesses. It's much needed to increase their trade and I will definitely be supporting them as much as possible.
"But obviously the number of cases are rising; in the last week the number of cases had risen to 86 by Monday (May 17). There were 54 cases the week before.
"We're urging people to remain cautious: remember: Hands, Face, Space, and wherever possible social distance.
"But from a local business perspective, I think it's fantastic that many can open up again.
"There's a really nice buzz as people are starting to get back to normal, a feeling of optimism."