Last week we launched our Back in Business campaign to help firms get on their feet again. JOE HARRIGAN speaks to cafe and restaurant owners who cannot wait to reopen

IT has been one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, but restaurateurs are determined to enjoy the easing of lockdown restrictions and get back to serving customers.

For these businesses, July 4 cannot come sooner and customers who have missed hot drinks, meals and takeaways are sure to agree.

Ali Hussain, of Chai Station on Cherry Street, Blackburn understands these sentiments exactly and, having opened his business only two weeks before the onset of lockdown, is eager to get back to his customers.

He said: “We were relying on a soft opening to build ourselves up and we were running well but then we had to close.”

But they have by no means been inactive.

Mr Hussain said: “We then started up a delivery service using PPE and we had a drop-in service for customers too.”

He added: “But now we’re looking to open up on July 4 so we hope that the public will be confident to come in and enjoy.”

Chai Station will be serving meals all through the day and hopes to attract a loyal customer base.

Mr Hussain said: “We’re open, we’re safe, we’re taking the appropriate measures and we’re open for business.”

Angela Lee, of Lee’s Cantonese in Sudell Road, Darwen – four-times winner of the prestigious Golden Platter award – has found herself in a similar situation. And, like the Chai Station, she can’t wait to reopen.

Ms Lee is also determined to show her appreciation for key workers by offering them special deals.

She said: “It’s just to show them how much we appreciate what they have done and how much they have helped us during this time.”

No-one involved in the hospitality industry is under any illusions about the scale of the tasks they face.

Having been hit by a sudden drop in demand, it will take some time until they are able to operate as normal again, with many at risk of going under.

This is why they need customers to support local eateries, keep to health and safety regulations, and spend their money in the venues they most value and which will be most in need.

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