Boyz roving reporter Stephen Vowles was out in the West End on Saturday afternoon to get the low down on five of his favourite venues as they reopened and welcomed their customers back for a post lockdown drink.
Tomas, General Manager of The Yard told me precautionary preparations had taken up to 5 weeks to sort. During the period of lockdown they took advantage of the downtime to have architects in and building work done.
A fun and actually very camp traffic light system has been installed so when it goes amber you can enter into the main area of the bar and then when it goes green you can go upstairs to The Loft Bar.
In The Loft Bar, smart and very sexy bar staff wearing masks did a great job promoting table service and their attitude was fabulous – with several of the bar staff teasing as to what they looked like behind their masks. Amended capacity at The Yard is now at 140.
Tomas said his customers were eager to share their household information and were also prepared to honour the two and a half hour table reservations to allow the next set of customers entry. There are screens in place and the smoking area has been reduced. Reservations is via www.yardbar.co.uk.
The next stop was The Duke of Wellington and the charming as ever General Manager Oliver told me that preparations for the 4th July had taken three weeks. I found people were in good spirits, well behaved and respectful of the rules and regulations.
The reservations system was working well. As each customer left his staff were quick to sanitise the tables for the next customers. Oliver commented that he knew his capacity going from 210 to 80 was not ideal but courtesy was prevailing.
Then on to Rupert Street where Grant the venue’s General Manager also told me that preparations had taken three weeks; his capacity had been reduced to 60 but his loyal customers – many of then regulars – were keen to support his drinks promotions that Rupert Street is so well known for like £12 on cocktails. Rupert Street is open from 12pm-8pm with table service. Grant did stress that if you wanted to take advantage of the £2 double up it was actually better to order at the bar where safe distancing had been put in place to allow that to happen.
A quick walk along Old Compton Street and and I popped into Clonezone. Again very efficient control measures in place with each customer asked to sanitise their hands with supplied lubricant by a member of the CZ staff wearing a mask. It made the shopping experience safe and at the same time welcoming.
Finally over to Ku Bar on Lisle Street where I was greeted by Stefanos and his hosts who were extremely ‘on the ball’ with the computer reservations system in place; that was working very well with the queue to get into the building moving fast with people actually making comments that the whole way the day was being handled was very professional and calm. With the Light Lounge also open and Ku Bar operating a ‘take away’ service too had helped as the bar’s capacity due to the enforced measures has been reduced dramatically. Gary Henshaw, owner of the Ku Group, commented that it was easy to enforce the social distancing policy inside the venues but not outside. Gary did also mention that the council had reduced the fee for having the tables and chairs outside which he welcomed.
Through Soho there was a strong police presence especially at the junctions of the roads leading in and out of the pedestrianised areas. As I left to make my journey home, I heard a customer say: ‘It is good to be back where we belong’. I will raise a glass to that. Here’s to the pedestrianisation remaining in place for the forseeable future.