Forever Edinburgh: Capital reopens after four months of lockdown
It was the day Edinburgh has been waiting for – one in which the nation took a huge step towards freedom with the reopening of pubs, gyms, shops, cafes and restaurants.
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On Monday (April 26), after four months of strict lockdown rules, the country moved from Level 4 to Level 3 of the Scottish Government’s five tiers of restrictions.
Across the Capital, and further afield, early morning shoppers queued outside shops eagerly awaiting them to reopen.
On Princes Street, Primark welcomed its first eager bargain hunters back at 7.30am, with queues continuing throughout the day as far as the eye could see.
Security guards were on hand to control numbers and make sure social distancing guidelines were properly followed.
Zara was another popular stop for early morning shoppers with a crowd of over 40 patiently waiting for the store to open promptly at 9am.
Queues were also spotted at Lush on Edinburgh’s Princes Street and manager Alan Brown said staff had been looking forward to welcoming back customers.
He said: “We’re all really excited, we’ve been preparing for the last few weeks with lots of training, with the shop, getting all the new products out as well.
“We’re just really excited to be speaking to people again after such a long time.”
Across town at Fort Kinnaird, early morning shoppers also flocked to the retail park which seen the car park almost full at around 10am.
Hundreds of shoppers, some out for the first time in months, made orderly and socially distant queues to wait patiently to get through the doors of Primark, TK Maxx, JD Sports and H&M.
Staff were also on hand outside each store to control the number of people in store to keep everyone safe.
Shoppers at the retail park were seen carrying dozens of large bags filled to the brim with clothes, homeware and shoes and many were relieved that they shop in store to physically see items instead of shopping online.
With restrictions lifted, it wasn’t just the retail sector able to welcome customers back.
As the country moved into level three restrictions, six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant.
Hundreds of hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants can now open indoors with no alcohol until 8pm, and those with outdoor areas can serve alcohol outside.
For months Edinburgh’s hospitality sector have been adapting to stay afloat throughout lockdown, but owners were delighted to be able to welcome back guests.
Graham Bucknall, co-owner of The Bridge Inn, Ratho said that his first table of three regulars came in at 11am to celebrate with three pints of Tennents.
He said: “We shut our doors on Christmas Eve and here we are reopening four months and a day later. We have worked in glorious sunshine these last few weeks getting everything organised, so sure enough today has been windy and pretty cold. But at least the rain has stayed away for now.
“Our first table of three regulars was at 11am and celebrated with three pints of Tennents. The second table to arrive ordered a bottle of champagne before they had even sat down. And then it has been just well-paced ever since.
“We are expecting a post-work rush, especially as the sun is starting to come through, and then bookings are really solid all week. This weekend is looking really busy.
“Our phones have also been ringing constantly - lots of explanations needed for table sizes, inside/outside alcohol, closing times, but everyone seems excited to be booking again. It has just been fabulous to get back open.
“Last July there was a huge emphasis everywhere on restrictions, instructions, stickers on floors. Now we are all so used to this, and everyone knows the way to behave. There’s none of the nervousness we saw last year, from customers and from staff. This time everyone knows the score and are determined to get back to doing some of the things we have all missed. It’s great to be open. And I never want to go through the last few months ever again.”
Lynsey Harley, founder of Modern Standard Coffee Roastery and Cafe in Edinburgh and Fife added: “We have been blown away by the support we have had from re-opening for sit-in customers today. Our café team have loved being able to serve coffee in a proper cup which has felt like such a treat rather than purely a takeaway!
"Opening the café in December means we feel like this is our official launch today and it’s been great to have so many smiling customers visit to enjoy our coffee, cake and chat.”
James Thomson, owner of Prestonfield and The Witchery by the Castle added: “It is both a huge pleasure and relief to be reopening. We’re confident we will be able to offer a safe experience for guests with all of the indulgence and relaxation you would normally expect.
“The support we’ve received so far has been overwhelming – we’ve had to bring back extra staff to cope with demand as bookings have skyrocketed.”
Roddy Smith, CEO of Essential Edinburgh said: “Today was a landmark day for our city centre with the opening of non-essential retail and elements of hospitality. The queues all day have been really encouraging and let's hope these are really positive first indication of residents returning to the city centre.
“The retail and hospitality businesses have done a fantastic job in making a safe, Covid secure environment for residents and to welcome everyone back in to enjoy the superb offering that has been closed for so long.
“We have worked proactively with the Council and the hospitality industry to create more outdoor spaces in the city centre for the enjoyment of everyone and we look forward to the further easing of restrictions for this hard hit sector in due course.”