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Coronavirus: Three B&Q branches reopen, but coffee shop forced into U-turn after backlash


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The car park outside B&Q in Newtownabbey yesterday

The car park outside B&Q in Newtownabbey yesterday

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The car park outside B&Q in Newtownabbey yesterday

B&Q has reopened three of its local stores, but a coffee shop on the north coast has been forced into a U-turn over plans to launch a collection service after a public outcry.

Bob & Berts, a homegrown chain of coffee shops, asked on Facebook this week if customers would like to see a collection service in Portstewart, where it has a large branch on the seafront.

But the suggestion attracted a flood of condemnation.

The cafe did not wish to comment yesterday, but it is understood the businesses backtracked on the plan following customer feedback.

One Facebook user said Portstewart was the wrong choice of location for a collection service.

"Please don't. We've been very lucky up around here because we are staying home. This will only encourage people to come to our town. Stay safe and stay at home," they wrote.

Another pointed out: "Would opening in Portstewart not start sending the message that Portstewart is open for business? (This would make) more tourists start to come to town."

The company said: "We pride ourselves on being a local community coffee shop. We thought we would open to provide a service that would help our customers get through lockdown.

"We got carried away by other food outlets opening to do takeaway and thought our customers were missing out.

"We became complacent and made the wrong decision. We are sorry. We've listened. We will remain closed."

Other coffee shops are reopening with limited trading.

General Merchants, which has three outlets in Belfast, is trialling a click and collect service this weekend from a hatch at its Ormeau Road coffee shop.

The company said social distancing would be strictly observed in a queue system outside the venue.

Only orders placed the night before will be accepted.

The Established coffee shop is running a click and collect service from its main venue on Talbot Street in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

Ground Coffee has also launched a click and collect service at Glenarm Castle in Co Antrim.

Darren Gardiner, the co-owner of Ground Coffee, said the company's staff were taking all necessary precautions.

Orders are placed online, with customers told what time to arrive to collect their order.

Orders are then brought outside and set on a table so that customers can get out of their car and pick them up without getting too close to anyone.

Meanwhile, B&Q has confirmed that its stores at Newtownabbey, Holywood Exchange in Belfast and Sprucefield in Lisburn have reopened.

The branches had previously been operating on a click and collect basis.

The Newtownabbey shop reopened on Wednesday and the other two yesterday.

B&Q said: "As an essential retailer, we're committed to providing the best possible service to support customers' home improvement needs at this difficult time while keeping customers and colleagues safe.

"Having watched other essential retailers support social distancing in their stores, we are now following their best practice and are reopening some stores with strict social distancing measures in place."

Some manufacturers are also reopening. According to Stephen Kelly of trade group Manufacturing NI, 26% of members who had shut said last week they would reopen this week.

Others plan to reopen their businesses on May 11.

Belfast Telegraph