May 17th: Pubs and restaurants prepare to welcome customers indoors again

The outdoor seated area at Lussmanns Harpenden.

The outdoor seated area at Lussmanns Harpenden. - Credit: Lussmanns

Weeks after adapting to the demands of al fresco service, pubs and restaurants across the district are now preparing for their next challenge - welcoming customers back indoors from next week.

Although the unseasonably cold weather put something of a dampener on the long-awaited reopening of pub and restaurant gardens, customers wrapped up in jumpers and blankets to ensure they didn't miss out.

Spokeperson for the Save St Albans Pubs campaign, Sean Hughes, said: "We would like to say thank you on behalf of Save St Albans Pubs for the continued support of residents and visitors in visiting their local pubs and helping us by sticking to the rules we have been given to enable us to stay open.

"You have battled the coldest April in 60 years to support your local pubs and we couldn’t be open without you so thank you!"

John McGuinness, landlord of The White Swan in Upper Dagnall Street, admitted while al fresco dining had been busy, the cold weather slowed things down.

The White Swan in Upper Dagnall Street, St Albans.

The White Swan in Upper Dagnall Street, St Albans. - Credit: The White Swan

"Our customers were all delighted to be back and showed it sitting through the cold weather and storms. The biggest challenge has to be on the staff as it has been very hard work for them, but they have been incredible!"

The White Swan in Upper Dagnall Street, St Albans.

The White Swan in Upper Dagnall Street, St Albans. - Credit: The White Swan

He has used lockdown to make major changes to the city centre boozer: "We have revamped inside the pub and introduced a new selection of taps, and wider range of cocktails.

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"We are presently moving forward with planning permission for our roof garden, which is due to be ready for the end of June, so we are really looking forward to that. The overall capacity will be increased by approximately double.

The White Swan in Upper Dagnall Street, St Albans.

The White Swan in Upper Dagnall Street, St Albans. - Credit: The White Swan

"We also have our ten year anniversary approaching at the end of June, and we are currently awaiting regulations regarding live music in order for us to host our live bands and sports events. We also hope to be able to show The Euros from June 21."

Andrei Lussmann, owner of the popular restaurant chain, has been limited as to which premises he has been able to re-open, although the Harpenden venue has outside seating with a partly-covered heated area driven by green energy.

"We’ve been fully booked since we could open outside. Our loyal customers never cease to amaze me – they have responded to our changing offering throughout the past year and we’re very grateful to them for staying with us.

"It helps that the Lussmanns Harpenden garden is so picturesque - I think we have one of the prettiest restaurant outside dining areas in Hertfordshire.

"It’s always difficult when the restrictions change; it’s very hard on the staff to get back into full work mode. The hospitality industry employs a lot of very young people starting out on their careers and it takes a certain sort of energy – it’s customer facing and it’s all about the experience so people have to be in the right frame of mind, and this pandemic and lockdowns have really knocked the stuffing out of people.

"Being on furlough or out of work for the best part of a year is tough – and it’s equally tough to suddenly bounce back to your top game. But Lussmanns staff are nothing if not adaptable, and also eager to get back to normal.

"Our customers have been so supportive, but I wish I could say the same for our Government – I still feel that hospitality has been a scapegoat and that our restaurants are just about the safest social places out there.

"We know how to clean; we understand strict sanitary processes and we can control the social distancing. I feel our customers would have been safe coming back a long time before now.

"We just want to keep on putting on a wonderful experience for them and feeding them the best sustainable food and drink, so they keep coming back for more."