Excitement as businesses reopen across region as Covid restrictions ease
- Credit: Mick Howes
Excitement is spreading across Norfolk and Suffolk today as pub gardens businesses, shops, gyms and attractions are opening after months of closure.
The major development is part of the government's roadmap for England to ease gradually out of coronavirus restrictions.
And the mood across many sectors, which have been forced to close several times over the past year, is one of optimism and confidence.
Photography studio, Picture Studios, which has bases on London Road North in Lowestoft and Ber Street in Norwich, temporarily reopened in June last year but had to close in November.
Its staff are working through "hundreds of appointments" as they prepare to reopen.
Matthew Goddard, managing director, said: "As much as we are very happy to be reopening and keen to rebook our customers in, we want to ensure safety is our first priority.
"It has been a tough year, we have had many challenges but nothing that will keep us down. We are feeling fresh and ready to face this new year ahead.
"We are confident the future looks bright for us and we still have plans for expansion."
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Elsewhere in Lowestoft owners are of a ladies fashion store Chari Boutique are excited about unveiling a new store at a bigger site on the High Street.
Owners Hollie Elliston and Nicky Frosdick are looking forward to welcoming customers back.
Mrs Frosdick said: "It's so exciting. We are now based at a bigger site, with so much more footfall up here. Hopefully it is going to be a busy time. Everyone has been so friendly, it is so much like a little community up here."
In Ditchingham, Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney shop, which supports the homeless, is reopening after closing on March 16 last year.
Based at the All Hallows Convent, Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney is also home to 32 formerly homeless people, so the charity decided to keep the site closed to the public until the autumn to keep the residents safe.
But just before it was due to reopen in November, the second national lockdown was announced.
Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney opened a second shop in Norwich’s Castle Quarter in September, which was also forced to close in line with the national lockdown.
Cecile Roberts, chief executive of Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney, said: "Our team can’t wait to throw the doors open next Tuesday and welcome back our lovely customers who we have missed so much."
Elsewhere in the region, popular entertainer Ben Langley will be reopening MIND mental health charity shop on Mere Street, Diss.
Nathan Gostling, who owns New Revolution (NR) Health and Fitness Club, with sites in Wymondham, Attleborough and Dereham, will be opening a new set site in Watton today.
The 31-year-old said: “It has been a difficult year but I couldn’t let Covid get in the way of my dreams and my ambition to grow.
“I really pushed for this new site and made sure I didn’t go backwards. Yes, we have lost members at our other gyms. But we have also used it as a great opportunity to review what we are doing."
April 12 marks a big day for lifelong friends Jack Buckles, 25 and Richard Lansdell, 26, who are opening their first shop together, B1 Barbers, in a former laundrette on Holt Road in Horsford.
Mr Buckles said: "In some way, lockdown has done us a favour. It gave us the time to get everything set up for the shop, but there will also be such a demand when we open - it's an idea time to launch.
"After months of not being able to, everyone will be desperate for a haircut and we'll be here to greet them."
Hair stylist Hannah Waters, 28, will be reopening a salon in Attleborough which closed in September.
Formerly known as Studio A, the business will be renamed Hannah's Unisex Salon.
She said: "It was a worry deciding to buy a business during a pandemic, but it was a risk that we were willing to take."
The Fat Cat Brewery Tap on Lawson Road, Norwich, has spent thousands returfing outdoor areas and improving the space indoors and outdoors so its beer garden can reopen to customers.
Landlord Mark White said people were ""gagging to get back to the pub to seek some sort of normality".
David Cox, 57, from Taverham, who has run Butterfly women's fashion store on White Lion Street, Norwich, said: "We are very optimistic about things. Most people are looking forward to getting out again. There is appetite from people to go shopping."
Meanwhile, prime minister Boris Johnson urged caution during the "major step forward" as a scientist advising the government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.
"I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed," Mr Johnson said.
"I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember 'hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme."
Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: "The watchword has got to be caution really.
"It's not clear exactly when or how big it will be, but there is, I think, inevitably going to be a bit of a rebound in the number of cases when things are relaxed."
The Oxford University academic said the vaccination programme will minimise hospital admissions and deaths but warned it will not be completely effective.
"Now the extent of it really depends on how well we comply with the ongoing restrictions so we really have to take this step by step," he added.
"I think we can be joyful and enjoy the freedoms but we've still got to realise there's still a large number of people who've not been infected or vaccinated and so they will be at risk."