Pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland receive ‘baptism of fire’ during bank holiday weekend
The easing of Covid-19 restrictions, combined with sunny weather and the bank holiday weekend, has seen thousands flock to bars and restaurants across Northern Ireland.
Long lines formed outside many pubs as friends and families celebrated the reopening of inner hospitality.
The majority of hotels were fully booked this weekend after Northern Ireland took a major step out of its lockdown restrictions.
While some bars have reported similar trades to previous holiday weekends, others have been left running out of stocks and forced to close their doors to large crowds.
City centers, including Belfast and Derry, were packed with visitors and revelers enjoying the good weather and the long weekend.
Una Burns, manager of Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh, said they were out of stock because there were so many people.
“Our bar has been open since 1944 and I don’t think we’ve ever run out of stock as much as this weekend. We didn’t expect it to be this busy,” she said.
“It was my first week as a manager when we reopened, so it was a baptism of fire for me, but it was great to be open and get back to work.
“I don’t think any of us were really prepared for the charge. We knew it would be busy but with the bank holiday weekend, the good weather and the Europa League final, it was a lot of fun. madness.
“But there was a fantastic buzz around the place and people were happy to be outside. For many, it was the first sign of a return to normalcy even with restrictions in place.
“There were a lot of people from the south who came for stays or for the day. It was awesome and a real boost for the hospitality.
“It was nice to see familiar faces again. People are very happy to respect the restrictions.
“We only made walk-in appointments and had to fire people and ended up closing the doors some evenings due to the large crowds.
“It’s a good complaint to have. We decided to open our upstairs lounge next weekend – it hasn’t been open to the public in years. It’s only ever used for private events, but now we might as well make use of it out of it.
“We had a very wide range of people, from chickens, young and old, to glam ladies and our regulars who are an older clientele.
“I think there will be a lot more stays and I have found that more people are coming to Fermanagh so we hope to take advantage of that.”
James McAlister, director of Morning Star in Belfast, said the city center was busy from Friday.
“It was good to see us come back to some normalcy,” he added.
“Although instead of ordering a round of drinks at the bar, people were ordering three rounds because they hadn’t been out for a while. All of the customers were excellent and kept us on our toes.
“It’s been a busy weekend, but even though it would have been busy anyway, we went from zero to 100 miles an hour in such a short time.”
Despite the busy holiday weekend, many have adhered to health regulations by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
Mr McAlister said his clientele was “very good” at obeying the rules and the signage.
“We are now used to following the different directions,” he added. “People just want to go out and see their friends and family.”
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