One year of Covid: This is how Pontefract and Castleford pubs survived the pandemic

It has been 12 months of uncertainty for the district’s hospitality sector.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 1:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th March 2021, 1:48 pm
Ashley Collins at the Blue Bell in Pontefract

From late March last year bars, pubs and restaurants were forced to close though many carried on providing delivery or take out food.

And many contributed to meal schemes to help feed people in need.

But it wasn’t until the summer that most venues were able to return.

Hospitality businesses were allowed to reopen with social distancing measures in place from July 4.

Bars and restaurants introduced sanitising stations, table service and ordering apps.

A track and trace service was used to log visitors to pubs with the intention of contacting people if an outbreak was later recorded.

At the time manager Sean Womack, the manager of the Blue Bell in Pontefract, said: “We’re good to go. We’ll be opening on Saturday with social distancing in place.

“We have a good clientele at the Blue Bell and we’re more of a food pub than a drinking pub so once the tables are taken, they’re taken and we won’t have problems with people standing around the bar.”

Saturday, July 4 was a big date with a huge effort from the hospitality sector to get back on track.

As the first pints of the summer were pulled a sense of normality appeared to be returning.

The first big weekend was summed up concisely by Pontefract’s Liquorice Bush landlord Scott Wilson.

He said: “Apart from a few drunkards forgetting the rules it was a good weekend.”

The reopening was followed by the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme during August in which eateries offered subsidised discounts on food to get people going out again.

Diners across the UK claimed more than 51 million meals during August.

And it has now been revealed that people in the Wakefield district took advantage of the deal 285,000 times through the month, saving an average of £5.57 per meal.

In total, £1,598,000 of discount was claimed by restaurants over the course of the month.

A total of 295 restaurants signed up to the scheme across all four of Wakefield’s parliamentary constituencies, not including chain restaurants with 25 outlets or more.

In the autumn, West Yorkshire was first put into Tier 2 restrictions. But the county was then switched to Tier 3 – the tightest possible restrictions – before the government decided to reintroduce lockdown for all of England.