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Cambridge shops, pubs and traders prepare for April 12 reopening

Shopping for fun and drinking in pub gardens are finally about to restart and Cambridge city centre has been making preparations this week.

From April 12, non-essential shops, hairdressers, nail salons, children’s groups of fewer than 15 youngsters, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen across England.

John Lewis exterior in the Grand Aracde . Picture: Keith Heppell. (44684560)
John Lewis exterior in the Grand Aracde . Picture: Keith Heppell. (44684560)

Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and swimming pools will also be opened, but for use by people on their own or in household groups. Outdoor gatherings must still be limited to six people or two households.

At the Grand Arcade in Cambridge, there has been plenty of work going on to ensure the safety of all workers and visitors.

Centre manager Paul Bentham said: “This is the third time we have come out of lockdown and we are managing it like a well-oiled machine.

“There is a deep clean going on throughout the Grand Arcade and measures are in place to keep visitors socially distant. There is good ventilation throughout the centre because our entrances are wide open and a good breeze blows through. We can also open vents in the roof.

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming shoppers back. There will be limits on the number of people who can come in. However, our safe limit is 1,400 people and we didn’t even reach that number just before Christmas last year.

“We are sad that some of our shops, such as Topshop, Topman and LK Bennett, will not be reopening. However there has been a lot of interest in those units – from a gin shop and bar, an indoor golf company and even a cinema.”

Grand Arcade manager Paul Bentham. Picture: Keith Heppell
Grand Arcade manager Paul Bentham. Picture: Keith Heppell

Meanwhile, the city council has been preparing to help food and drink businesses to serve outside by providing them with extra seating.

Cllr Rosy Moore said: “We have some funding from the Combined Authority to give to businesses who apply for outdoor seating. It won’t be available from April 12 but should be there soon.”

These seating areas, including heated pods, were envisaged for around the market and on King’s Parade.

Cllr Moore added: “I’m very pleased about this partial reopening. But we still need to be careful and manage the reopening safely. Footfall in the city is only 30 per cent below where it was in 2019 so we need to make sure people are following social distancing and wearing masks when they return to the city. I understand that people are desperate to get out and about.”

Pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating can open, and the Town and Gown pub and theatre will be serving outdoor tables from April 12.

Manager Karl Steele said: “We’re so pleased to get started again especially as we launched last year. We opened for seven weeks in total last year and then we had the November lockdown.”

They have a full series of shows planned from May 17, with social distancing and extra ventilation.

Sally and Lawrence Champion at the Lion and Lamb in Milton
Sally and Lawrence Champion at the Lion and Lamb in Milton

Cambridge Chop House restaurant will be back with outdoor dining with eight tables, although they say they will be “operating purely as a ‘pie shop’ during this period”.

All stalls on Cambridge market will, in theory, be allowed to return. However, this depends on sign off from the city council after health and safety checks.

The Lion and Lamb pub in Milton has already booked 100 seats for Monday night’s reopening.

Landlord Lawrence Champion said: “We invested £23,000 in a marquee, heating and extra outdoor seats. We hope it will pay off and can’t wait to welcome back our customers. It will be lovely to see everyone again.”

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