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Revellers hit Northern Ireland pubs as they reopen after coronavirus lockdown

Despite the wet weather revellers hit Belfast's pubs and restaurants for the first time since March with their reopening after their coronavirus lockdown.

It was announced by the Executive last month that the hospitality sector could reopen on Friday and publicans have been busy getting everything in place for the big day.

It was stipulated in the guidelines that bars could only operate on a table service basis as customers must also eat a substantial meal to go along with their much awaited drink.

The rules made it a very different experience for those who travelled to Belfast's Cathedral Quarter on Friday afternoon.

With social distancing markers, table service and contactless payment in place there was a lot to get used to.

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The Dirty Onion opens its door for the first time in months. Pic Freddie Parkinson

The Dirty Onion opens its door for the first time in months. Pic Freddie Parkinson

Freddie Parkinson

The Dirty Onion opens its door for the first time in months. Pic Freddie Parkinson

Queuing outside The Dirty Onion, Damian McCardle wasn't sure what to expect but was looking forward to a day out with his mates.

"It's good to have a bit of craic and get back to normality," he said. "I'll be drinking any gluten free beer they have.

"It's great to get out and meet my mates. I'm out with a few of them today.

"It will be interesting to see how they manage it inside because I have no idea what the rules are."

Tony O'Reilly and Paula Breen couldn't wait for an afternoon out in The National as they waited patiently for the doors to open at 12pm.

"I miss the craic because we went into isolation quite early," Tony explained.

"Just getting out and about and having a freshly poured pint of Guinness will be nice."

Paula added: "I'm getting a pint of Heverlee and I can't wait for it."

Antonio Getty, Josh Macrory, and Gary and William Blackadder from Ballymena were delighted to get their first pint after lockdown in The Dirty Onion.

"We have been dying for a pint," said Antonio. "We've even had the holiday countdown on our phones.

"We just couldn't wait. I was up at the crack of dawn for this so we just came down for the day. It's been a long three months."

Meanwhile, Hospitality Ulster appealed to the sector and customers to be responsible and comply with the social distancing measures in place.

Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster’s Chief Executive, advised all customers to plan their day out in advance to ensure they are not disappointed.

He added that the reopening of the sector comes with increased responsibility to protect the health and safety of staff and customers.

“Reopening also comes with a range of restrictions and advice which must be taken seriously and implemented to the highest standard,” stated Mr Neill.

“Flouting the regulations or guidance could result in the re-closure of our sector, or worse - the increased transition of the virus through irresponsible actions.

“Hospitality Ulster has striven to protect the jobs and livelihoods in our industry, but now it is the responsibility of the individual businesses to do everything possible to reduce the spread of the virus and protect lives of their staff and customers.”

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Beer garden in the Dirty Onion as our Ralph Hewitt has his pint. Pic Freddie Parkinson

Beer garden in the Dirty Onion as our Ralph Hewitt has his pint. Pic Freddie Parkinson

Freddie Parkinson

Beer garden in the Dirty Onion as our Ralph Hewitt has his pint. Pic Freddie Parkinson

Mr Neill also said that if the PSNI are forced to take action action those not adhering to the social distancing guidelines, Hospitality Ulster will fully support the police.

“That being said, the hospitality industry is incredibly responsible and significant measures have been taken to create a safe environment,” he continued.

“We are not taking this lightly, and many members have spent thousands of pounds, just to allow them to reopen in a safe way.

“It is in the best interest of the industry in the long term that it is successfully reopened so that jobs and livelihoods are not affected.

“We simply cannot afford to see a spike in cases and a second lockdown."

Belfast Telegraph