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Long wait ends with a socially distanced pint of black stuff in Belfast

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The Belfast Telegraph’s Ralph Hewitt is served by Pearce Carroll in The Dirty Onion. Photo: Freddie Parkinson

The Belfast Telegraph’s Ralph Hewitt is served by Pearce Carroll in The Dirty Onion. Photo: Freddie Parkinson

Freddie Parkinson

The Belfast Telegraph’s Ralph Hewitt. Photo: Freddie Parkinson

The Belfast Telegraph’s Ralph Hewitt. Photo: Freddie Parkinson

Freddie Parkinson

The Belfast Telegraph’s Ralph Hewitt is served by Pearce Carroll in The Dirty Onion. Photo: Freddie Parkinson

It had been a long wait for those desperate for a night out with their friends and loved ones ­- and it finally came to an end yesterday.

While the weather wasn't what anyone would have hoped for, there was little indication that it had deterred the revellers in Belfast's famous Cathedral Quarter.

For more than three months the area's usual bustling nightlife and atmosphere evaporated as the public were told to stay home to help stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Last month's announcement by the Executive that pubs, restaurants and hotels could reopen was warmly welcomed by those in the hospitality sector and customers alike.

This reporter decided to make the most of his day out in the city to experience the buzz the Cathedral Quarter can offer once again.

After jumping on the train at Lurgan Train Station, where social distancing signs were aplenty, I headed to Great Victoria Street as per my usual routine when travelling to the big smoke for a day or night out.

Lockdown seemed a lifetime ago as the streets were buzzing with both shoppers and workers - a far cry from the desolate and empty roads in the midst of the pandemic.

It almost felt like the world had forgotten all about coronavirus - even for just a moment.

As I made my way across the city centre, plenty of people were wearing face masks and gloves as an added precaution and it was the same in the Cathedral Quarter.

An early afternoon pint and meal was on the cards for plenty of revellers, and publicans didn't fail to deliver. I made the most of my visit to The Dirty Onion and experienced a socially distanced pint of Guinness.

Hand sanitiser pumps were available at the entrance as I was greeted at the front door by restaurant manager Natalie Wilson, who, of course, was wearing a face mask. I was then escorted to the beer garden, where customers can enjoy a drink if they don't fancy a meal, and placed my order with the waitress for a very long-awaited pint of the black stuff.

My drink was kindly delivered by a staff member wearing the necessary face mask and gloves. Contactless payment was the easiest part of the process.

It is safe to say I enjoyed my first poured pint - in a glass - after what seemed like forever.

Similar scenes unfolded at other venues such as The National and The Thirsty Goat as revellers queued up from before noon to make sure they weren't left without a table. The buzz was picking up as the afternoon carried on and it was heartening to see so many customers showing patience and understanding to bar and restaurant staff.

As I headed for home, more and more people began to hit the pubs and restaurants for what was a momentous day out.

It seems people's social lives are back to an extent - rather that than nothing at all.

Belfast Telegraph