Many sites, which suffered an additional month without commerce due to the UK’s first localized lockdown, are now very different from those which were forced to close almost five months ago.
One-way systems have been demarcated in many pubs, which have had to clear tables and chairs to make way for social distancing measures.
Protective screens have been put in place above bars and counters, and diners and drinkers are urged to follow the steps already known to the rest of the country.
These include leaving their addresses and phone numbers to facilitate contact tracing.
Kevin Shepherdson, owner of the Old Horse on London Road, reopened this morning and said he was delighted to welcome customers again.
He said, “I’m serious when I say the crates have been closed for so long that we had to put WD-40 on them because they were sticking.
“We had to do all kinds of preparations, including removing nine tables to make room.
“It has been hard work, but we are really very happy to be open again.
“Of course, Monday lunchtime everything went really well, but we know we could have other challenges on Friday night.
“Normally every owner wants to see their pub packed, but we’re in a very strange situation where we don’t want to see that yet.”
Kevin said normally 350 people could fit in at a time, but restrictions on status and social separation requirements meant the capacity was reduced to around 200.
He spent some £ 4,000 to prepare for the pub to reopen.
He said: “It used to be a simple thing to come to the pub. You would walk to the bar to drink your beer, sit and drink it, but now there are so many signs telling people what to do that you feel like you’ve read War and Peace before you take your first drink.
“I think people will get used to the new normal pretty quickly.”
Not all of the town’s pubs have reopened yet, with Firebug in Millstone Lane and Revolution remaining on board.
Others took the opportunity to renovate their premises during the forced closure.
Wysgton’s House, on Jubilee Square, plans to reopen at 11 a.m. on Wednesday August 5.
Owner Geoff Thornton said: “We still have a few things to work on, but we are restocking.
“We’ve been closed for so long, a few more days won’t make much of a difference.”
Mr Thornton said he hoped to get permission to have tables for 50 to 60 people on the grassed area in the square just outside the medieval pub.
He said, “Our capacity is on the inside but we hope we can catch up with it on the outside. “
Mo Barber and Mark Wickwar have reopened The Men’s Room barbers on King Street.
Mo said, “It’s been tough and it’s a game of waiting now to see how quickly things start to improve.
“We receive reservations.
“We had the round of the council to verify that we were okay – with social distancing and hand sanitizers.
“It’s good to be back, but I would say the time away from work has also benefited my family.
Miguel de Ameida, who has run the Almeida cafe on Guildhall Lane for 21 years, said he was also happy to open again, but warned that 2020 was a delisting.
He said, “You can’t just flip a switch and make it go back to where it is.
“We have had virtually no income since March – although we had the same support everyone has from government, but we had a one month extension of our lockdown.
“We’re going to try to rebuild from here, but I can see it’s spring before we get back to where we were.
“What I hope is that the owners will be patient – that they see that it will take time to get back into business and that they adjust their expectations.
“A lot of places won’t reopen and there won’t be a rush of people looking to accept them, so hopefully the owners will be sane and realize that it’s better to have less than nothing.
“You look around and always see how calm it is.
“I think we’ll be lucky to take 20% of what we would normally have this month.”
He said he hoped the government would receive additional support for businesses in the city to recognize the additional pressures they have faced compared to the rest of the country.
The Department of Health and Welfare said an additional £ 2.6million would be made available to businesses in the city, but it was not clear how this will be administered.
The city council has £ 10million of an initial £ 85million allocated by Whitehall to support businesses in the city in its bank account, but will have to return it to the Treasury unless authorized.
The city’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, said he would continue to pressure the government to publish it.
He said he was happy to see more businesses open for the first time in months.
He said: “It has been a very difficult time for the hospitality sector in Leicester, which has had to endure a month longer of foreclosure than anywhere else.
“I don’t think we expected every place to open immediately, but I do think we’ll see a gradual reopening of businesses as people regain the confidence to come back downtown.
Leicester City Council inspectors today checked newly reopened businesses to ensure they had social distancing measures in place and hand sanitizing stations in place.