Pubs in North Devon have been welcoming back customers after the coronavirus lockdown.

Like many pubs, the Waterfront Inn has had to reduce the amount of seating indoors. Picture: Matt SmartLike many pubs, the Waterfront Inn has had to reduce the amount of seating indoors. Picture: Matt Smart

Bars, as well as restaurants and hotels, were able to reopen from Saturday (July 4), albeit with a range of rules and measures in place to limit the spread of the virus.

Venues have had to limit their capacity to comply with social distancing guidelines and many pubs are switching to table service.

Guidance from the Government also says music and sport should be kept at a low volume to avoid shouting, and pubs should take customer contact details to assist NHS Test and Trace.

Among those opening on Saturday were three of Braddicks Leisure’s pubs in Westward Ho!.

More outdoor seating is in place at the Waterfront Inn as it reopens. Picture: Matt SmartMore outdoor seating is in place at the Waterfront Inn as it reopens. Picture: Matt Smart

Owner Rob Braddick has introduced table service at The Fairway Buoy, The Pier House and The Waterfront Inn.

The indoor capacity of the latter has been significantly reduced and its carvery station remains shut for the time being, but the car park has made way for extra outdoor seating for patrons.

Staff at the pubs are wearing protective visors, and masks if they wish.

Mr Braddick said: “There has been a lot of carrying tables around to make sure of social distancing, a lot of signage and hand sanitiser and lots of staff training.

The Castle Inn at Combe Martin has installed screens around each bar to help protect customers and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Dave O'FarrellThe Castle Inn at Combe Martin has installed screens around each bar to help protect customers and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Dave O'Farrell

“With the table service we’ve needed a lot more staff, which is something we will have to keep an eye on.

“When the dust has settled we are going to invest heavily in technology and look at an app where people can order and pay.”

While Braddicks has been able to open three pubs, Mr Braddick said Crabby Dicks and the Blacksmiths Arms will remain shut for now, with the two Bideford pubs presenting more of a challenge to reopen safely and viably.

In Barnstaple, Bull and Bear owner Matt Spencer said the pub had almost halved its seating capacity to meet social distancing guidelines.

The new layout for the Castle Inn at Combe Martin during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Dave O'FarrellThe new layout for the Castle Inn at Combe Martin during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Dave O'Farrell

The pub has also introduced table service and is working on an app for customers to order and pay for food and drinks.

Mr Spencer said: “We opened on Saturday and had a really good day. The customers were all fantastic.

“Everybody knows what the restrictions are – the Government has been good in the way they have shared them with everybody and not just the industry.

“It means customers turn up with that in their head and they are expecting the experience to be different, and to be told where to go and what to do.

“It’s just a case of being alert and making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

Landlords Dave and Sharon O’Farrell at the Castle Inn at Combe Martin have been busy with a range of measures to make their premises as safe as possible.

That includes a track and trace contact system on entry, one-way system, both bars open, large bar spaces, adequate room for spacing tables, PPE for staff, hand sanitiser stations, one-in-one-out toilet facilities and full Perspex screens on both bars, plus background music levels only and rain shelter for the beer garden.

Mr O’Farrell said the pub was relatively quiet at the weekend, adding: “We want all our customers and staff to feel safe in the venue, some of our customers are elderly or at risk.”