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Rules putting small bars at a disadvantage, claims owner

The owner of a historic Londonderry pub claims the Government's reopening rules leave her seriously disadvantaged.

The Anchor Bar is one of the city's oldest pubs and also one of the smallest - having a maximum capacity of just 60.

But Gemma Bell, who has owned the bar for the past 29 years, said social distancing rules will reduce that number to a meagre 25.

Because she cannot provide food to her customers, Gemma could not reopen on Friday.

And now she is questioning if it is worthwhile returning at all.

"We closed our doors on March 16 like so many other pubs and restaurants in Derry, but unlike so many of our competitors we haven't been able to open because we can't provide food," Gemma said.

"This has put us at a serious disadvantage and I cannot see what difference it makes to people coming inside whether or not they have a plate of chips with their pint.

"We are still in the dark as to when we will be able to open but realistically, because we have had to reduce our capacity to around 25 people, there is only a 50-50 chance I will be able to open at all."

In contrast, next door to the Anchor, the Bentley Bar was fully booked for the rest of the weekend.

Seating had been arranged to ensure social distancing while customers were allocated a two-hour slot to enjoy a bite to eat with their drinks.


Emmett Gallagher

Emmett Gallagher

Emmett Gallagher

Emmett Gallagher said it was great to be back inside a pub after so long.

He said: "I am so impressed by the way the staff here have things organised with regards to social distancing so I feel safe being here. Safety is definitely being put ahead of everything and they are still able to deliver wonderful food."

Providing wonderful food has been Raymond Moran's passion since he opened Soda and Starch restaurant in the Craft Village.

An emotional Mr Moran said opening the door on Friday was a big moment.

He said: "I turned the key in the door this morning at 7.30am because I couldn't sleep and it was very emotional for me.

"This is my livelihood and there are times I spend 80 or 90 hours a week here, so to see bookings coming in especially from regular customers, is such a real boost.

"We put a big emphasis on using local suppliers so being open again will increase their business too."

While Nonna's Woodfire Pizzas on Shipquay Street was not open for lunch, final preparations for evening opening led to a real buzz inside.


Darren Bradley

Darren Bradley

Darren Bradley

Owner Darren Bradley explained how, along with screens between tables, contact with staff would also be kept to a minimum.

He said: "So much work has had to be done that it is almost like opening up for the first time all over again, but we are so delighted.

"People coming to the restaurant will see a whole new way of doing things, not least in the way food and drink will be ordered.

"We have developed our own app for ordering, which means we have a barcode on the table that allows our customers to order, which goes directly to the kitchen and it also allows them to pay, but we still have all our staff.

"I think we are all a bit nervous and won't know for sure how things will work out for a while, but it should all be grand."

Belfast Telegraph