This week Dartford businesses have been welcoming customers back inside for the first time this year, after the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions on May 17th.
The latest phase of England’s roadmap out of lockdown means that pubs and restaurants can allow diners inside, while hotels, hostels and B&Bs can also reopen to guests.
To encourage residents to ‘Support Your Local Shops’, the Council visited six firms across the borough ahead of reopening.
Gurjit Randhawa, owner of Esquires Coffee in Dartford High Street, said: “Monday was long overdue.
“The lockdowns have been very, very difficult and it was a huge day, not just for businesses but for people in general.”
Tracy Watson, manager of The Wharf pub in Greenhithe, said: “I’m excited for customers to be able to come in and have a look at what we’re going to be able to offer now.
“The service is so different due to Covid-19, but everyone’s adapting to it. The summer will be fantastic.”
Jemal Akkus, owner of Efes restaurant, said: “It’s been six months of going back and forth. We’ve been doing deliveries and collections. I’m looking forward to opening, six months is a long time. I can’t wait to have all of you back.
“If I could, I’d give all of you a big hug, but I can’t do that at the moment!”
Indoor leisure activities can also restart, meaning classes can resume at Fairfield Leisure Centre, along with sports such as table tennis and badminton.
Rachael Rawsthorne, Community Engagement Officer at Places Leisure, said: “We’re really looking forward to reopening, staff are really excited that classes are coming back and that indoor activities can restart.
“GP referral classes are coming back for anybody suffering from mental or physical health issues. We can help with the confidence of people looking to get back to the gym.”
The leisure centre is offering existing members a 14-day free trial to try out the new Covid-19 safety measures, while non-members can sign up for a tour.
Karthick Srinivasan, General Manager at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel at Crossways Business Park said: “We’re excited for guests to come here, relax and enjoy the hotel.
“With regard to Covid-19, we have measures in place encouraging guests and team members to keep their distance around the hotel. We have a lot of posters around highlighting key touch points, and when staff clean the rooms they put stickers up so that nobody else can enter.”
The Kut Hut in Copperfields Shopping Centre opened in April and continues to welcome customers back.
Ishmael Lloyd, a volunteer at the hairdressers, said: “We’ve managed to get through the first three weeks, it slowed down a little bit afterwards, but that was expected.
“People seem to be quite distanced as everyone’s quite unsure on what to do and where to go, but we’ve got a lot of policies inside the salon to keep social distancing.”
Businesses are eligible for Covid-19 support funding, for more information, visit www.dartford.gov.uk/Covid-19-information