As lockdown measures have been eased further today, beer gardens and outdoor dining areas have been opening at pubs and restaurants around the county.
And, to celebrate, the sun has even been shining!
Although some places have recently been providing a takeaway service, it has been five months or more since customers were able to sit and relax with food and drink on-site.
So understandably, today is quite an occasion for business owners as well as guests who are eager to enjoy a pint at their favourite local watering hole.
We spoke to a number of pub owners around Leicestershire to find out how they were feeling about welcoming customers back to their outdoor areas.
Sam Hagger is the founder of The Beautiful Pubs Collective, which runs The Forge Inn at Glenfield, as well as The Rutland and Derby and The Knight and Garter in Leicester city centre.
The garden and terrace at The Forge Inn has reopened today, and now features a newly-added Pizza Shed.
The Rutland and Derby’s garden and roof terrace will be reopening on Friday, April 23, and The Knight and Garter is set to fully reopen from Thursday, June 3.
Sam told LeicestershireLive: “We are absolutely delighted to have been able to reopen our garden and terrace at The Forge today.
“Welcoming our team back to work along with our first guests this lunchtime genuinely felt very emotional.
“Hopefully today marks the beginning of hospitality’s Covid recovery and we genuinely feel blessed to have survived the past 13 months and can’t wait to continue doing what we love.”
The Marquis of Wellington, in London Road, Leicester, and The Globe, in Silver Street, Leicester, are part of the Ever So Sensible group, and both have reopened, with new and improved outdoor seating areas, today.
James Dolan, operations director of Ever So Sensible, told LeicestershireLive: “We are super excited to see all of our lovely customers again, especially our much loved regulars that are part of the family.
“This most recent lockdown has been the longest and toughest for everyone, which made us a bit nervous about re-opening, but as we’ve got stuck into getting the pubs ready, we’ve really enjoyed being back at work.
“We’ve rediscovered our sense of purpose and our love for serving amazing food and drink whilst making people happy.
“Today has been brilliant seeing all those smiling faces again (even if they are hidden behind a mask).
“It has really reminded us why we love our industry so much. “
Becky Farnham-Burrows is the landlady of The Old Black Horse Inn at Houghton on the Hill, which she runs with her husband, Matt.
Their beer garden has reopened today, and is set to be open each week from Tuesday to Sunday, weather dependent.
Becky told LeicestershireLive: “We’re really excited to be able to open our garden gates and welcome our lovely customers back. It’s been a very long wait after closing our doors on Sunday 29th October.
“We’ve been working hard to make sure everyone can enjoy a pint and a bite to eat safely in our beautiful beer garden.”
Alex McDonald is the owner of The Dixie Arms at Market Bosworth, which last opened for dine-in customers at the start of November.
Alex told LeicestershireLive: “We are absolutely thrilled to be open again and to be able to welcome back new and old customers. We’ve made a huge effort to ensure all guidelines are followed to keep everyone safe.”
Award-winning chef Dom Clarke owns The Stag and Hounds at Burrough on the Hill, which he runs with his partner, Antonia Nelhams.
The pub, which was awarded its first Bib Gourmand in the 2021 Michelin Guide earlier this year, has reopened for outdoor dining today, and guests can enjoy a specially-created barbecue menu.
Talking about reopening, Dom told LeicestershireLive: “We’re so happy to welcome guests back.
“It’s lovely to get the buzz of service back again and hear laughter in the place.
“We’ve been shut since November, so it’s lovely to reopen.”