More than 300 furloughed workers for Thorley Taverns are counting down the days to April 12 when pubs can resume service in outdoor areas and, for a handful, May 17 when indoor trade restarts.
Not one member of staff at the business, which has 19 venues in Thanet and one in Sandwich, was made redundant during the year of varying covid restrictions.
Hospitality sites first shut in March last year and were allowed to open for around just four months, from July through to the November. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme boosted trade but then covid cases began to rise resulting in renewed lockdown in November.
Now, with the government roadmap out of restrictions underway, the team is busy preparing for at least 14 venues to open in April – including popular Cramptons in Broadstairs, Barnacles in Margate and The Queen’s Head on Ramsgate seafront.
Pubs with outdoor areas will operate table service, some sites without gardens or outdoor seating will run takeaways, but all are planned to reopen by May and Thorleys director Phil Thorley says he is looking forward to seeing all of his team back in the business.
He said: “We have got over 300 staff on furlough and we made the conscious decision not to make anyone redundant, We have always been an active and pro-active business and we intend to reopen everywhere when we can and need every one of our team to come back, serve the public and do what we do as a business.
“On April 12 we are opening 14 out of 19 Thanet sites with gardens or through takeaways and the rest will be opening on May 17.
“We are pleased and relieved all at the same time. As a company we are ready to reopen when the restrictions are lifted. With the numbers (of cases) falling and hospitalisations falling, as well as the roll out of vaccinations which has been fantastic, we feel that public confidence levels are getting higher.”
Mr Thorley says people can see small steps back to normality. This includes his own family with his fiver-year-old grandson going back to school yesterday (March 8).
He says there is now an appetite to be able to socialise again – safely with covid-secure measures in place.
He said: “Everyone in the street asks the question when we are reopening. People want to come back and socialise, they have missed this.
“We are as excited as the public and now we know the timescales and people can have confidence because of the vaccinations and the number of cases now falling off a cliff edge.”
Thorley Taverns was created in London in 1971 by Phil’s father Frank and opened its first Thanet venue -The Charles Dickens in Broadstairs – in 1975.
The family made the permanent move to the isle in 1977 and continued to grow, selling the last London pub in 2013 to concentrate on the Thanet pubs, restaurants and hotels. They have also been involved in fundraising for vaious isle charities including the Alfie Gough Trust and Oasis Domestic Abuse service.
The lifting of restrictions began yesterday (March 8) with the reopening of schools, Care home residents finally allowed have close contact visits from a nominated person, subject to testing and wearing of PPE, and the public being able to meet one other person outdoors, with picnics or coffee on a bench allowed.
On March 29 there will be a return of the rule of six for outdoor meetings – including private gardens -and allowing two households to meet outdoors.
Outdoor sport courts for tennis, basketball etc and outdoor swimming pools to reopen as well as organised outdoor sports.
Removal of the legal requirement to stay at home although people will be asked to work from home if they can and to minimise travel.
April 12 is when non essential retail reopens, personal care services, including hairdressers, nail bars and indoor gyms, can resume business and the hospitality trade begins reopening with holiday lets/ self-contained accommodation, outdoor service at pubs and restaurants and reopening at zoos, theme parks, drive in cinemas, libraries and community centres.
On May 17 more restrictions are due to be lifted, including the reopening of indoor service at pubs, restaurants, play areas, cinemas, theatres, hotels, B&Bs and sport stadiums. Rule of six will apply
An announcement by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP of plans to extend pavement licences for a further 12 months gives more scope for pubs, restaurants and cafes to serve people outside.
Thorley Taverns reopening on April 12
Captain Digby (Broadstairs),
Charles Dickens (Broadstairs)
The Oak Hotel (Ramsgate)
The Queens Head (Ramsgate)
The Tartar Frigate (Broadstairs)
The Lanthorne (Broadstairs)
The Pegwell Bay Hotel
Bradstow Mill (Broadstairs)
Wig & Pen (Margate)
Hotel de Ville (Ramsgate)
The Red Lion (Ramsgate)