'It was madness': Thousands flock to Northern Ireland's reopened pubs

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'It Was Madness': Thousands Flock To Northern Ireland's Reopened Pubs 'It Was Madness': Thousands Flock To Northern Ireland's Reopened Pubs
Long queues formed outside many pubs as people celebrated the reopening of indoor hospitality over the bank holiday weekend. Photo: PA Images.
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By Cate McCurry, PA

The easing of Covid-19 restrictions combined with the sunny weather and bank holiday weekend saw thousands of people flood to bars and restaurants across Northern Ireland.

Long queues formed outside many pubs as friends and families celebrated the reopening of indoor hospitality and city centres, including Belfast and Derry, were packed with visitors.

The majority of hotels were fully booked over the weekend after Northern Ireland took a major step out of its lockdown restrictions.

While some bars reported similar trade to previous bank holiday weekends, others were left low in stock and were forced to shut their doors to the large crowds.

Nearly-empty fridges in Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh (Charlie’s Bar)

Una Burns, manager of Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh, said they ran out of stock as it was so busy.

“Our bar has been opened since 1944 and I don’t think we ever ran out of as much stock as we did this weekend. We never expected it to be as busy,” she said.

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“This was my first week as manager when we reopened so it was a baptism of fire for me but it was great to be open and back to work again.

“I don’t think any of us were really prepared for how busy it was. We knew it would be busy but with the bank holiday weekend, the good weather and Europa League final it was madness.

“But there was a fantastic buzz about the place and people were delighted to be out. For many it was the first sign of normality returning even with restrictions in place.

There was a lot of people from the south coming up for staycations or for the day

“There was a lot of people from the south coming up for staycations or for the day. It was brilliant and a real boost for hospitality.

“It was lovely to see familiar faces back again. People are very happy to abide by the restrictions.

“We took in walk-ins only and we had to turn people away and ended up having to close the doors on some nights because of the large crowds.

“It’s a good complaint to have. We decided on the back of that to open our upstairs lounge next weekend – it hasn’t been open to the public in years. It’s only ever used for private events but now we may as well make the use out of it.

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“We had a really wide mix of people, from hens, young and old, to glam ladies and our regulars who are older clientele.

Stock was running very low in Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

“I think there will be a lot more staycations and I have found that more people are coming to Fermanagh, so we hope to benefit from that.”

James McAlister, manager of Morning Star in Belfast, said the city centre was busy from Friday.

“It was good to see us back to some normality,” he added.

“Though instead of ordering one round of drinks at the bar, people were ordering three rounds as they hadn’t been out in a while. All the customers were great and kept us on our toes.

“It was a busy weekend, but while it would have been busy anyway we went from zero to 100 miles an hour in such a short space of time.”

Despite the busy bank holiday weekend, many adhered to the health regulations by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

Mr McAlister said that his clientele was “very good” at following the rules and signage.

“We are well used to following the different guidance by now”, he added.

“People just want to get out and see their friends and family.”

Indoor hospitality in pubs, cafés and restaurants in Northern Ireland resumed on Monday of last week.

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