Northampton business owners remain hopeful June 21 lockdown easing will not be delayed by Indian variant
'We just have to wait and see, we've got everything crossed'
Northampton business owners are keeping everything crossed for the next step of coronavirus lockdown easing going ahead on June 21, amid concerns over the Indian variant.
'Step four' of the government's roadmap includes allowing nightclubs to reopen, large events to go ahead and the lifting of most restrictions on social contact.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated there is nothing to suggest there will be a delay but scientists fear the fast-spreading mutation of the virus could derail the plan.
Danny Edwards, who runs Retro Bar and The Boston, plans to reopen both as nightclubs as soon as they are allowed and believes there is a large appetite for them to return.
"Whatever happens, it's not going to be long before we can come back, even if they do extend the June 21 date - I would be surprised if it's for very long," he said.
Retro Bar on Bridge Street has been shut since March last year, along with many other nightclubs, while The Boston on College Street has reopened as a pub.
Danny said Retro needs a new roof so that may delay its reopening but The Boston has been getting busier and busier each weekend - so much that they have had to turn people away.
"The signs for Northampton shows there's going to be a lot of interest once restrictions are lifted I imagine there's going to be a lot of people come out," he added.
"It's looking good so it's just fingers crossed for it going ahead but the Indian variant is worrying."
The near-full lifting of restrictions on social contact would also mean pubs could go back to normal with standing by the bar and live music.
Suzy Keeping, who runs The Old White Hart in Far Cotton, said it would mean they could serve a lot more drinks as bar service is so much quicker than table service.
"We want the best for everyone and want everyone to be safe so we will wait as long as have to wait but hopefully we'll be back as soon as possible," she said.
Suzy's business partner Chris D'alessio runs The Picturedrome in Kettering Road and they cannot wait for gigs to come back to boost themselves, their customers and musicians.
"It will be huge for them, they're not operating at full capacity yet they're just running the bar for food and drink but it's the biggest part of our business so it's important it comes back," she explained.
"Artists have had a really hard time so they will be excited to play again too - we just have to wait and see, we've got everything crossed."
Festivals are among the many events that will be allowed to return after 'step four', including Kaya Festival at Overstone Park over the August bank holiday weekend.
Organiser Thabani Nyoni has already been through two postponements so is not too worried about the possibility of doing it again if the easing is delayed and is staying positive.
"It would be massive if we had to cancel it as it would be the third cancellation if that happens like last year but the only think we can do is to go with the scientists' and the government's advice," he said.
"So we can't put the event on if the variant is still spreading and it would be unethical to do that and we wouldn't endorse that so all we can do is see what happens."
Kerry Reynolds, co-chair of Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District, said the gradual reopening of the economy has revitalised the area by bringing the buzz back
"We are all looking forward to more businesses being able to open their doors and get back to normal - particularly those in the leisure and nighttime economy who have been so affected by the multiple lockdowns," she said.
"But public health must remain the priority and any decision to relax restrictions must only be taken when it is safe and sensible to do so.
"We will continue to follow the latest guidance and will work with our members to ensure they are ready to get back trading as soon as they are able, further enhancing Northampton town centre's position as a great place to live, work and shop."