Since 22 February, a number of hospitality venues in Jersey have begun the gradual resumption of trade under a raft of social distancing measures after chief minister, senator John Le Fondré, said the Channel Island’s level of infection showed it was safe to restart group activities “carefully”.
Currently, pubgoers can visit venues in groups comprising up to ten people from different households – however they’re required to wear masks at all times, apart from when eating and drinking, and place last orders before 10pm.
Though pubs that cannot serve food must remain closed, Channel Island-based operator the Liberation Group – which runs 44 pubs in Jersey – has been able to reopen a number of venues including the Trinity Arms in Trinity, which has been trading since 22 February.
“Seasonal changes have had the biggest impact,” general manager Patrycja Bosak told The Morning Advertiser (MA). “Our last reopening in Jersey was 16 June where we had full use of our great alfresco area.
“With the current opening in the late winter months we can only really offer our internal space. This does limit us and our customers, but we are more than grateful to be operating again in a safe and secure environment.”
'The phone was ringing off the hook'
Bosak adds that customers haven’t seemed reluctant to return to her pub “at all” and sales have mirrored those seen during previous post-lockdown reopenings.
“The customer feedback has been excellent and, even before we opened, the phone was ringing off the hook and online bookings were very positive,” she added. “We feel so privileged to have our customers return in confidence knowing that we are doing all we can in keeping them safe.
“Internally it has been like for like,” she said of sales. “However, the cold weather has deterred our customers from dining outside, however we do get a few brave clients who have taken to alfresco dining.”
As per Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-lockdown roadmap, pubs in England will be able to reopen their outdoor spaces and pub gardens on 12 April at the earliest – with socially distanced indoor trading not resuming until a month later.
‘Grateful that our customers understand the restrictions’
Like the rest of the Liberation Group’s gradually reopening estate across the island, the Trinity Arms has implemented measures including staff and site risk assessments, full staff Covid tests before reopening to be followed up every eight weeks and “Track and Trace for customers from a QR code, which we have added to our single use menus”.
What’s more, the operator has implemented rules regarding reduced capacity toilets, strict cleaning schedules and currently trades with two metres between customers at seated tables.
“With this in mind our kitchen and front of house labour has remained constant with turnover trends changing slightly to accommodate our safety measures and trading restrictions,” Bosak explains. “These include extra clean down procedures and care for our customers.
“We are grateful our customers understand the restrictions,” she continued. “The odd customer may forget a mask, which we will provide, and just sometimes we have to remind them that their two-and-a-half-hour maximum stay is drawing to an end.”
‘Significant wellbeing benefits’
Despite food-led pubs being able to reopen on the island, Covid restrictions on household gatherings remain unchanged, with islanders barred from mixing with others in their homes and Le Fondré warning that “risks remain”.
The minister for health and social services, deputy Richard Renouf, added that while the relaxation of some public heath measures created a degree of risk but there were "significant wellbeing benefits to reconnecting some of the activities we have all been missing".
Following the first swathe of lockdown measures introduced to combat the first wave of infection in spring 2020, pubs in Jersey were permitted to reopen almost a month earlier than the UK mainland due to plummeting case numbers.
Channel Islands-based pub operator Liberation Group announced plans to start opening sites on Guernsey and Jersey from 15 and 16 June respectively despite pubs in mainland Britain not opening until 4 July at the earliest.
As previously reported by The MA, ‘circuit-breaker’ measures were introduced on the island in December.