Residents across South Tyneside are encouraged to support the Borough's hospitality sector as the Council and local businesses continue to work together to help keep customers safe.
In line with the gradual easing of national restrictions, hospitality venues have been able to reopen from 12 April, albeit providing an outdoor service only at this time. However, if Step 3 in the Government's roadmap out of lockdown goes ahead as anticipated, they will be able to begin trading indoors again from 17 May.
South Tyneside Council has been assisting businesses to welcome back customers, advising on the rule changes and measures they can put in place to ensure they are observed.
Councillor Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "This past year of constant uncertainty and lengthy periods of closure have been extremely challenging for businesses, particularly hospitality venues.
"Over recent months, the Council has been working closely with businesses to help them get ready to reopen as safely and smoothly as possible and support their staff and customers to adhere to the guidance on hands, face, space and fresh air.
"Whether people are enjoying these social interactions again with a drink or meal at a café, restaurant or pub, we continue to do all we can to support our hospitality industry to recover from the pandemic, working hand in hand with them so that their customers have the confidence to visit premises and feel protected."
The Council's new team of Business and Community Support Officers (BCSOs) and Environmental Health officers have been out engaging with venues across South Tyneside giving advice and assistance. They have also been talking to members of the public, reminding people about the rules and the importance of social distancing, using face coverings and hand washing.
To support the recovery of the hospitality industry, the Council's Licensing Team has also issued more than 30 temporary pavement licences to businesses across the Borough, enabling premises to create an outdoor space for customers in line with the current restrictions.
Planning permission is not required for a pavement licence and the £100 application fee has been waived. Officers are also looking at the potential for a blanket licence in some areas.
Mariellie's in Jarrow and the Clifton Café in Ocean Road are just some of the hospitality businesses to benefit from a newly granted pavement licence.
Talitha Connolly, of Mariellie's, said: "The application process was really easy. The Council was quick to help with any questions I had. It's really good that they are making it so simple in order to help the independent businesses get back up and running."
Scott Carlucci, of The Clifton Café, added: "We have been able to utilise the pavement licence to assist in providing additional seating for our reopening after the Covid pandemic. The process was straight forward and clear guidance was given to both how to apply and the measures that we needed to take to ensure the safety of our customers and the general public.
"The Council has been very supportive to our business throughout this difficult period and reacted quickly to guidance provided by central Government. This has also allowed us to respond to operational changes and assisted us in ensuring that we bounce back from what has been an extremely challenging period within the hospitality sector."
Kyrie Geach, Sales Manager at the new Dockyard venue in South Shields, which has also been granted a full permanent premises licence, reported a successful first week in business with more than 620 covers on the first day alone when outdoor trading was permitted.
She said: "It's been fantastic to work with the Council on creating this outdoor eating and drinking experience. The whole process from start to finish has been well managed with the support of the Council who helped us navigate through the guidelines from the Government in order to have the Dockyard and our PAV licence granted.
"With the help of the Council, and Mincoffs solicitors, we were able to have a quick turnaround to get this new and exciting project off the ground.
"The feedback from customers has been fantastic with comments such as 'there is nothing like this in South Shields' and how much of a relaxing, friendly and safe atmosphere we have created for friends and families to enjoy."
Local people are being called upon to support the Council's 'Going out, out' campaign, which encourages people to take advantage of the local eateries currently offering outdoor table service as well as when indoor hospitality businesses begin reopening again from 17 May.
Councillor Dixon said: "We have already done a great deal of work to help businesses in the run up to Step 2 of the restrictions easing. This will continue as we support even more venues ahead of the restrictions being lifted further in the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown with businesses permitted to resume an indoor service.
"In the meantime, it is important to remember that coronavirus is still present in our communities and we must all remain vigilant. It is imperative that people continue to follow the rules, stay safe, be sensible and respectful of each other."