HOSPITALITY businesses in Northwich are busy preparing to welcome back customers this weekend after a long hiatus.

Pubs, restaurants, bars and other popular eateries and watering holes across the country closed on March 20 as the coronavirus lockdown came into force.

But after more than three months, businesses are set to reopen across the town on Saturday, albeit in a different form that they did before, with pre-booking becoming a requirement.

On Northwich pub which will be reopening on Saturday is The Coachman in Hartford, and it has devised a clever grid system in its beer garden to keep customers safe.

The garden area will accommodate 30 tables, for between four and six people per table, and 19 picnic squares, for up to eight people.

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Inside will be 16 socially distanced tables, which will be available for reservation Friday, July 10.

“Just like you, we are very excited to have the ability to reopen again and we have put a lot of planning in place for July 4,” said owner Justin Hyam.

“However, I would ask all of our fantastic customers to be patient with us as we roll out our opening procedures.

“Our intention is and always has been to be able to reopen and give you all a safe social environment in which to use the pub again.

“We all know that from July 4, the hospitality industry is going to go mental, but from our point of view we want to ensure that this isn't a mad weekend followed by further restrictions.

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“We want to ensure you and us are all safe and we all get to enjoy the Great British Pub again.”

Another pub that is eager to welcome customers back but is urging people to expect a ‘new normal’ is The Riverside at Acton Bridge.

A spokesman said: “We would love to welcome all of our lovely customers back from July 4 and we are super excited to do so.

“We know how important it is for our guests and teams to be in a safe and clean environment, so we've been busy preparing our pub to make sure we're ready to welcome you back when you feel comfortable to do so.

“We’re sure you'll find the same great pub, just with a few extra measures to keep you, your friends and family and our team safe.

“To avoid huge queues outside, especially in our unpredictable British weather, and because of our reduced capacity inside, we will be asking you to book a table in advance using our online system.

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Staff at The Riverside after its makeover in November

“The maximum group we will accept is six people, and we may impose a time limit on your booking at peak times.”

Payment by card and contactless where possible is strongly encouraged, and while cash will be accepted, the aim is to keep this at a minimum.

One Northwich restaurant which will be reopening is Witton Street’s Bruschetta, and it said on its Facebook page: “We will be opening our doors to eat in from Saturday, but please bear with us, as things will be slightly different.

“We won’t be able to have the normal amount of people in the cafe but will try to accommodate everyone as best we can.

“There will be other small changes to benefit the safety of our staff and customers and we ask that you adhere to these. We look forward to welcoming you.”