Pubs in Swindon celebrate return as beer gardens reopen

BEER gardens were filled with smiling faces as punters savoured the taste of a pint in the fresh air yesterday.

Many of town’s pubs used their outdoor facilities to welcome customers back after three months of lockdown.

Regular Keith Pedder, 77, was the first to arrive at The Merlin on Drove Road, shortly after 11am.

He revealed: “I haven’t had a drink since this place closed.

“I often come here, it’s a place I can sit down, read my paper and have a decent pint. This is what it is all about. I’ve missed it. I know everyone here, and it’s good to come out and socialise.”

Swindon Advertiser: Keith was the first customer to arrive at The Merlin this morning Keith was the first customer to arrive at The Merlin this morning

Mike Long, 60, from St Marys Grove, sat at a nearby table enjoying the sun with his friend.

“It’s nice to be back and the staff here are amazing but after so long it feels strange,” he said.

“I was making a joke with my friend to say, ‘what do we do in a pub?’ it’s like being out of practice.

“We came here because it’s a very good pub, with a very good reputation. It’s a lovely weather, it’s like being on holiday.

“Let’s hope it’s the start of things getting back to normal.”

Swindon Advertiser: Mike LongMike Long

Pub staff put measures in place to minimise the risk of infection and part of the car park was replaced with tables to accommodate up to 150 people. The Merlin has a one-way system and hand sanitiser stations and customers are asked to use the test and trace app before sitting at a table.

Swindon Advertiser: The Merlin opened at 11am this morning The Merlin opened at 11am this morning

General manager Robbie Duffy said: “The more we can welcome, the better. We expanded our beer garden by over 100 per cent so we can welcome as many people as possible.

“It’s like a soft opening, but as soon as we hit May 17, what we’ve got to do is just open the front door and let them in, there’s not a lot more else for us to do because everything would be Covid-safe already.”

Andy Humphries, 53, was drinking in the Waiting Room in the town centre.

He said: “It is one of the best pubs in Swindon.

“The thing people have missed more than anything else is the social aspect and see their friends again, which is important.

“We’re going back to some form of normality.”

Swindon Advertiser: Andy and his friend TonyAndy and his friend Tony

Manager Daniel Harrison said: “It feels good. I’m just happy to be open, to be honest. My customers are just happy to come back, sit down and have a drink. It may be a bit cold, but they can bring a blanket.”

Laura Edwards, the manager at Tawny Owl in North Swindon, said her reopening was a success.

She said: “Our first day has been brilliant. With the bad weather this morning we were dubious who would venture out, but we have seen regulars and new faces and enjoyed a busy lunchtime full of eaters and drinkers.

“Everyone seemed happy to be here and I’m just so pleased to see everyone. I hope it continues.”

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Maurice Spillane was just glad to enjoy a pint of Guinness at the Patriot’s Arms with his friends for the first time in a long time.

The 72-year-old said: “It’s really good, I’m in pub and the beauty of actually having a pint of Guinness, is probably the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”

“There’s six of us here sat at a table, we haven’t done that for months. It’s brilliant.

“Everybody is keeping a distance. We’re trying to do all the right thing but because we’ve known each other for 20-30 years it feels odd that we can’t actually shake hands.”

Swindon Advertiser: Maurice enjoying a pint of Guinness Maurice enjoying a pint of Guinness

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