‘WEIRD’, ‘different’ and ‘enjoyable’ – words used to describe the re-opening of pubs across Saddleworth.
The most pleasing phrase delivered though after Britons sank an estimated 15 million pints on ‘Super Saturday’ was ‘peaceful weekend’.That description belonged to Sergeant Paul Heap from Greater Manchester Police’s Saddleworth and Lees division as locals headed for their favourite drinking haunts on July 4.
Busy Uppermill was described as “horrendous” by one publican but no arrests had to be made.
“I had sufficient resources allocated to Saddleworth and Lees and concentrated on Uppermill as this had the busiest foot fall,” said Sgt Heap.
“We worked closely with the licensees and offered support to ensure social distancing was adhered too as best we could as public safety was our main concern.
“Although it was busy, the vast majority of people were very well behaved and enjoyed their evening socialising.
“They engaged positively with my officers that had been deployed on foot along High Street.
“We only had a small number of incidents, which were all minor drunken arguments. No arrests necessary and each incident was resolved with advice.
“Otherwise a peaceful weekend but I am sure a few hangovers followed for some.”
David Park, landlord of The Commercial on Uppermill High Street said: “It wasn’t too bad. For us, it was like a standard Saturday.
“We are fortunate because we are quite a big pub. So, even though we didn’t seat anyone outside, we were able to do social distancing to a standard we thought would suit everyone.
“We had no issues but we closed a little earlier to make sure we were not visited by people coming from other venues where they might have had a lot of drink.”
In Dobcross, The Navigation also welcomed its first customers since lockdown started in March.
Landlady Sue Ellis said: “It was weird even though I have been in touch all through lockdown doing takeaways and deliveries
“But it was nice to see familiar faces back in. Because we are a food led pub, it was a quiet start but it was good to put into practice all our Covid measures before we bring the eaters back in.
“We want to make sure we have everything right space wise and all the markers in place.
“It was hard work getting everything ready because the pub had laid dormant for 14 weeks. It was all cleaned and then sanitised.
“We have done everything by the book to make people feel comfortable including introduction track and trace and a metre and half distance in between people. It took some doing but we got there in the end.”When the Navvy’s popular food menu returns later this month, the number of diners will be reduced from 42 to 20. Customers simply have to ring to reserve a table.
Sue and staff will continue with a takeout service for those “who don’t feel comfortable still going in a pub.”
At The Cross Keys, mine hosts Darren and Denise Lignum are also getting used to the new norm.
“The weekend was down a little on last year because quite a few people may have stayed away because they thought it was going to be busy plus the rain didn’t help,” said Darren.
“But we still had a fairly good Saturday and fairly good Sunday and then Monday was busier.”
Customers can book a table or buy meals and drinks via an App; you can also walk up from the village just for a pint but standing at the bar is no longer permissible.
Thanks, however, to the ingenuity of Alphin Pans in Delph, pints will be served in special trays.
There is plenty of outside space at the The Cross Keys, including seats in the adjoining barn.
“Because we are so far up the hill there was no point doing deliveries, so we just did teas, coffees and cakes,” said Darren.
“We spent three months painting the whole inside varnished all the tables and changed a few things around, so it is looking nice.”
At the King William IV (King Bill) in Greenfield, landlord Tony Simpson said: “It has been different.
“But people were well behaved, there was no trouble and everyone seemed happy to be back.
“A few locals stayed away because I think they just wanted to get the first weekend over and allow everyone else to blow off steam. But it was enjoyable.”
Tony and wife Donna have introduced a track and trace app and erected a large marque in the pub car park.
The Bill’s weekly Monday quiz, however, has not yet been re-introduced.
In Lydgate, The White Hart marked its return from lockdown with a new dining concept.
Staff and volunteers at owner Charles Brierley’s Stockport Road hostelry and hotel worked through the coronavirus crisis to supply vulnerable residents across Oldham with more than 7,000 free meals.
NHS staff, isolating from their families, also took advantage of free accommodation.
Now, with business edging towards some sort of normality, the White Hart re-opened with the Brass Monkey Brasserie takes up residence in the Oak Room and Pavilion which are normally used for weddings.
The rear garden also has 20 tables spread to provide a mix of individual bubbles and two household bubbles.
Charles said: “The next few months will be a learning curve for everyone in the hospitality sector as we get used to this new normal.
“But we are looking forward to welcoming people back and hope they enjoy some of the changes we’ve made since they last visited us.”