Restaurants, cafes, hotels, pubs and a number of other establishments across the county are gearing up for their big reopening this Saturday as the government’s easing of social distancing rules have been relaxed.

A number of Cumbrian business individuals have spoken about the various measures they have put in place and are appealing for the public to come out and support their local businesses, after suffering their biggest hit in trade in more than a generation.

Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed last week that the rules would be relaxed in England from 4th July with a “one metre plus” rule being introduced and two households being able to meet indoors and stay overnight - with social distancing.

As part of plans local authorities have been putting in place, the Penrith BID and environmental health team from Eden District Council put together a webinar on Tuesday morning to go over numerous enquiries and help business owners ask questions in preparation for reopening, which has been mirrored by council’s and groups across Cumbria.

Steve Stables, owner of the Salsa Mexican restaurant in Penrith and co-owner of sister establishments Bar ES tapas in Keswick and Ambleside, is one of many excited to get back to a “new normal” and has done his best to highlight to customers the hard work him and his team have done to make sure eating out is as safe as possible.

The 38-year-old said: “We’re really excited to be reopening from Saturday, currently it is just our Penrith and Keswick branches reopening and Ambleside will be starting up again from next week but we are all looking forward to it and it feels like starting a new business rather than just reopening.

“Seating wise we are down in Salsa from 50 to 28 covers, while in Keswick we’ve taken on an adjacent unit for a short-lease so we luckily haven’t lost any covers there.

“If it was at the two-metre rule we would have been down to 20 or 22, so it is better than it was but we will still be struggling to make a profit and I can foresee December being a difficult time for us as I cant see us being able to cater for Christmas parties like usual, which would often fill the entire restaurant.

“The furlough scheme has been a lifesaver and I’ve been doing my staff in three week stints while alternating between working for us doing take-aways only, which we haven’t made any money from but it has helped us keep things ticking over and the team ready for reopening. We’ve avoided any redundancies but I’ve been honest and told everyone that any downturn could lead to that.

“We’ve also used the time wisely, installing a new Rational oven, which is the Rolls-Royce for Kitchens, and put in a fresh extraction fan system so we are raring to go. The meeting with environment officers earlier this week was also really helpful and I feel this is the right time for us to be reopening, although I’m cautious on whether Saturday is the best day to do it on, but I think it will still be a long road of probably two-years before our turnover is back to pre-covid levels.”

Lee Cooper, of Greenwheat Flowers & FIKA in Penrith, has decided not open his renowned café to seating on Saturday but to wait until at least Monday, having similar fears to Steve over how it will be managed.

The 42-year-old, who operates the café in the same retail unit as his wife Laura Tuer floristry, said: “We’ve still got a lot to work out with insurance and environmental risk assessments but I’m thinking of reopening from Monday with seating. We’re looking at having a table of four out of the front and fitting eight in the garden as a way to help with the numbers we will lose inside.

“We have been lucky that the florist-side of the business has continued to do well, but whatever we do to reopen, we need to be very careful. We may be turning our restaurant evenings into more pop-up style occasions outside but you can’t rely on the British weather either.”

Philippa Ball, manager of Penrith BID and a specialist in providing pragmatic, commercially focused business improvements and solutions across Cumbria, feels it is crucial that people balance supporting their local economy while acting responsibly.

She said: “We’ve been working with the hospitality sector and looking at a range of solutions for coffee shops, bistros, B&Bs, hotels to manage any risks that customers may have. I have been really impressed by the dedication business owners have shown and a lot of them have clubbed together to help each other.

“It is quite clear from the Webinar this week that all businesses are showing a commitment to highlight to customers their premises are as safe as possible in the hope that they can welcome as many as possible back. We had questions from what to do with your condiment bottles to handling the toilets. What people need to realise is this wont be going back to before but it will be different, for example tables won’t be laid until you sit down so cutlery hasn’t been loitering or touched. There is a lot of hearsay at the moment, but all businesses are following good government guidance.

“The public need to be patient and it is key that people are respectful and behave correctly as society continues to fight this pandemic.”