DRINKERS and diners can return to pubs and restaurants from July 4 as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the easing of a significant number of lockdown restrictions..

The announcement was welcomed by pub owners throughout Tynedale who have suffered serious financial uncertainty during three months of closure.

The owners of the Rat Inn at Anick had been redeveloping its beer garden for reopening before the Prime Minister’s announcement was made.

But co-owner Karen Errington said it would reopen on July 8 with a full range of measures in place to protect customers and its staff.

“We have extensively remodelled our garden to create more tables and space with social distancing in mind,” she said.

“In any event we believe people will feel safer outdoors so that’s what we are planning for.”

Some pubs have operated takeaway food and drink services with social distancing measures in place. Despite remaining closed throughout the lockdown, the Rat Inn is looking forward to welcoming customers again.

“This has been a tough few months for everyone working in hospitality,” Karen Errington said. “But having a project like this has driven us on and we are feeling positive about the future, have many plans and are very much looking forward to seeing our pub open once again.”

Elsewhere, Matt Cawood at the Boatside in Warden also had plans in place. “We’re very happy,” he said. “We just need to get ourselves into gear and get everything into place.

“When the sun is shining, we’ve got loads of outdoor space. We’re also going to have a teepee to increase our outdoor space, an outdoor bottle bar and table service.

“We want to minimise the movement of customers indoors.”

But not all businesses would be reopening on July 4, even if they are permitted to do so.

Ricky Froldi, who owns Danielle’s Bistro in Hexham, said he remained concerned about the safety of staff and customers.

He said: “The Government’s announcement was a little confusing to us because they said they were dropping the social distancing down to one metre, but they would prefer it if people could stay two metres apart.

“They also don’t want people sitting face to face, which is not ideal for a restaurant.

“There’s still too much uncertainty to open up straight away. We could bring everybody back from furlough and then if anything crops up we would have to close again.

“I would rather wait, sit back and take a look and review the situation in a month.”