The Quod Terrace

As Boris Johnson announced that the UK’s hospitality industry can re-open for outdoor dining on April 12, the orders began pouring in.

Mark Butcher at The White Hart in Wytham was inundated with bookings within minutes of the news being announced, proving that we are ready to embrace a return to our hospitality venues in whatever capacity is allowed.

“We are just really excited about welcoming our amazing customers back and feel really positive about the future” 

Kay Chandler at The White Hart in Fyfield witnessed a similar story: “Within hours of the government announcement our reservations were going crazy, so we have high hopes for a busy summer, but I do feel for those who do not have outdoor spaces,” she adds. “Fingers crossed for a mild spring!”

The new dining pods at The White Hart in Wytham

News that restaurants, pubs and cafes can welcome diners back indoors by May 17 was another light at the end of what has been an extraordinarily long and difficult tunnel for the hospitality industry during the pandemic.

So how do they feel about the news? “We are really excited to have a date to finally work towards,” Kay told us. “We are now just really excited to welcome all of our amazing customers back and feel really positive about the future.” 

Last year The White Hart had an orangery constructed on its terrace for all weather outdoor dining, demonstrating the measures pubs and restaurants have gone to to adapt to the pandemic measures. READ ABOUT THEM HERE:

The White Hart in Fyfield

Claire Alexander of Killingworth Castle was also pleased with the announcement: “I’m just so relieved to hear the word ‘open’ again. It means the future is much, much brighter and given the surge in bookings we are going to be full for staycations all year,” she says.

“We will be raring to go on April 12 thankfully as we have a beer garden so let’s hope we have an early heatwave like last year but this time can trade!!! 

The garden at Killingworth Castle in Wootton

As for the future, Claire adds: “I think there’s a long term impact on the mental and physical health of many in the trade, plus the impact of increased borrowing to get through. But we are still luckier than so many people who lost their businesses. We’re still here.”

Chris Brewster who is opening The Duke Of Marlborough and the new Back Lane Tavern in Woodstock said: “I feel 100% more positive about the future now. We are going to hit the ground running and come out of this stronger than ever!

“Whilst I am a little disappointed that we will have to wait until May 17 to have customers inside our establishment, at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

“We count ourselves fortunate to have such a great external space and have already begun plans to maximise the use of our garden, including the use of marquees to provide cover from the British conditions. ” 

Chris Brewster outside in the extensive gardens at The Duke Of Marlborough in Woodstock

In the meantime, our local hospitality industry will continue with their takeaway options while they prepare to reopen READ OUR TAKEAWAY GUIDE HERE:

“There is certainly an air of certainty now which is a relief after a year of the unknown”

Sue Randall of Oxford Fine Dining was pleased at news that weddings of 6 were allowed by March 8, 15 by April 12, 30 by May 17 and more by June 21. “For us summer opening was the key turning point as we are flat out with weddings which will bring cash flow.

“April and May weddings are moving to September and October and then hopefully we will have a busy Christmas party season,” she says.

“We think it is positive news, having a target date to work to. Obviously we would like to get going sooner and are slightly cautious not to pin all our hopes on 21 June as we have had set backs before, but we much prefer a slower release that will hopefully mean no going backwards.

Oxford Fine Dining at Oxford Town Hall

“There is certainly an air of certainty now which is a relief after a year of the unknown.

Sarah Heather Holt who runs The Mole in Toot Baldon and The Mole and Chicken in Easington says: “We are very pleased to hear any positive news at all but wish there was an easier way back to normal for hospitality.

“It’s good to see a glimmer of hope for the future and while we are lucky to have beautiful gardens, the reliance on fair weather makes it a very tough pill to swallow especially if there is no further support for the sector 

“We are just keen to be able to reopen with all guns blazing, and the staff can’t wait to come back to work “

Jack on the terrace at The Mole and Chicken

Others are more cautious about the April deadline. Stacey Prigent who runs The Horse and Groom at Caulcott with her husband Jerome, said: “First impressions are that it will be too cold to sit outside on April evenings.”

The much-loved village pub flooded at Christmas and work is still ongoing to repair the damage. Stacey added: “We are not sure that we will be fixed up from the flood by April and until we know the schedule of that work we are unable to assess when it will be possible to reopen the pub.”

The Horse and Groom in Calulcott before the floods

Plus Covid conditions must be met for each phase of lockdown to ease and pub landlords are hopeful that the government will continue to support them.

Hamish Stoddart, MD of Peach Pubs including The Bear and Ragged Staff at Cumnor, The Thatch and The James Figg at Thame, The Fishes in Hinksey and The Fleece in Witney said: “I am disappointed that profitability will only be possible in late May. This means we have lost money in nine months out of 12.  We desperately need help to get out of the level of debt we are now in.  

“If the government gives us the support we need and deserve for being closed for so long, we may have a route through. We hope for VAT help and business rate help in the Budget.

“It took 10 years to make the business profits that we have thrown away in 12 months. 

“Having said that, we are optimistic about the future and the team and the team and I are eager to get going again for us and our guests and regulars.”