Altrincham’s hospitality and entertainment businesses reopened for indoor service for the first time in 2021 today as the easing of the coronavirus lockdown continued.
Alongside pubs and restaurants which resumed service inside, theatres and cinemas also reopened – while from this weekend onwards, Altrincham Football Club will open its doors to home supporters under stringent restrictions.
Delighted customers safely mixed with one another for the first time since household mixing was banned in Greater Manchester on July 31st.
Amid the cold and worsening weather, the latest easing of restrictions came as a huge relief for the town’s hospitality and entertainment sector.
Altrincham Today took a walk into Altrincham and Hale and caught up with a selection of local businesses.
Everyman offers a wide array of mainstream, classic and independent films – with each screening room fitted with cosy sofas in an atmospheric setting.
Besides keeping the branch open for food deliveries, Clare Ellis, venue manager, and Abi Foster, deputy manager, have put in place various Covid secure safety measures across the building.
“All the screens are at half capacity; some are only at 40%. We also have an algorithm in the booking system that makes sure that each [separate] party is at least a seat apart,” said Abi.
She added: “Most of the team are coming back, we’ve even recruited some extra staff.
“There are loads of new films coming out – every week we should have a biggish release. And yes, by the end of September James Bond will be here!”
The Con Club
The Con Club’s spacious outdoor seating area has made it a popular spot for al fresco wining and dining in recent weeks.
On reopening its indoor restaurant area, manager Sam Baynes told us: “I’m excited to get an atmosphere back inside.
“To have our restaurant open again is massive for us and we’re already fully booked for the first two weekends.”
Sam added: “We have hand sanitising stations as you’re coming in and out of the restaurant and toilets.
“There are also temperature checks on the staff at the start of their shift.”
The Unicorn (JD Wetherspoon)
Wetherspoon had resisted the urge to open its outdoor spaces, so The Unicorn on Ashley Road has remained firmly shut since 2020.
The popular venue, which originally opened in 2001, had only refurbished its interior last August.
Heather Bowers, manager of the Altrincham branch, said: “It’s great to be back and to see all the staff again.
“We’re just waiting to see what happens for June now but, in the meantime, we remain cautious and optimistic.
Heather added: “We have NHS track and trace set up… as well as forms, available at the front door, for people who are unable to use their phones.
“Staff are on the floor at all times to manage social distancing and help customers.
Shaw’s Road restaurant Blanchflower was conspicuously one of the busier restaurants in Altrincham this morning, reaching maximum capacity as early as 9am.
Manager Hannah Barker said: “We’ve got a lot more space between tables, we’ve taken a lot of tables out to make the customers feel safe.
“We’re prepared, and we’re managing to control people coming in. It’s been crazy but completely manageable.”
Oxford Road Café
In just under a decade, one of Altrincham’s most well-established cafés has moved site and expanded its capacity from 16 to just over 100 people.
Although lockdown has been a difficult period for most hospitality businesses, the last 14 months has opened up new opportunities for Oxford Road Café. Recent innovations have enabled it to open an evening diner service, which among many other things offers cocktails and increasingly popular ‘British Wagyu’ meat dishes.
Jonny Hanson, owner of Oxford Road Café, said: “It’s been lovely to get people back outside and it’s the silver lining to get them back inside.
“The layout of the unit has been quite forgiving; we’ve only lost eight seats. It’s been quite touching the support we’ve had.
“We’ve installed a cube system, which allows customers to call over staff digitally, which now stops people waving.”
Cibo, which sits on the former American Bar and Carluccio’s site, is one of Hale’s most popular new restaurants.
Although it was well equipped to cope with al fresco dining, it was today able to reopen its main restaurant area to the public once again.
Tony, manager of Cibo, said: “We’ve socially distanced the tables. We also have put screens in most areas and we have regular hand sanitiser stations.
“Our outside area was done during lockdown, which took a few weeks,” added Tony.
“It’s been great to see our regulars come back. And we are now fully booked for the upcoming weekends.”
Clarendon Fine Art
The London based art gallery has only one branch outside of the capital – in Hale, having moved to the village three years ago in a pursuit of making the area a ‘destination village’ for fine art.
The gallery, adorned with beautiful modern art, has broadened its portfolio and seen demand spike over the pandemic.
Lewis Cornish, Senior Fine Art Consultant, said: “Over the pandemic we have worked behind closed doors. When we locked our doors, we did private views by Zoom, so we took the gallery to them, [the pandemic] didn’t stop what we were doing.
“Lockdown was busier for us – because of Covid we have more customers than before. The pandemic has done wonders for us.”