Blackpool's hotels and pubs ready for latest changes on Monday
It's a big day on Monday for Blackpool's hotels and pubs as lockdown restrictions are further eased.
For hotels in the resort, the big day can't come soon enough.
Although some hotels have already been open to keyworkers, many of Blackpool establishments are geared towards leisure breaks and have been closed since last November.
For many pubs, meanwhile, the ability to serve customers at tables and chairs outdoors has been a lifeline since last month, yet Monday's changes will mean they will once again be able to welcome customers inside their establishments, while still adhering to Covid guidelines.
They are all hoping it will pave the way for the final end of restrictions in June, despite some concerns being raised about the so-called 'Indian variant'.
At the 115-bed Tiffany's Hotel on North Promenade, general manager Karl Myhill said: "We went from being a lively hotel that never shut for a single day in thirty-odd years, to being an eerie silent place and it has just been upsetting, to be honest.
"So we are all really excited to be opening again and hearing the sound of customers, music and entertainment here.
"We've been busy re-painting and getting the guest rooms ad the lounges ready - we've even bought a couple of huge stone lions for outside the entrance."
Karl is optimistic about the rest of the year, as bookings already show a health number of 'staycations' by families who are unsure of whether it's safe to go abroad and are instead coming to Blackpool.
He said: "This really is our time to shine, not just at Tiffany's but Blackpool as a whole, because if they enjoy themselves this year they are more likely to come back in 2022.
"We've had bookings from people who came here as children and haven't been back until now - and they are bringing their own children.
"The test for us is to keep families coming here in 2022, when i think people might be more likely to start going abroad again."
Down the coast at the nine-bed Kingsbury Hotel on New South Promenade, Peter Shaw and Valerie Hodgkiss have been running the establishment for five years.
Peter said: "It's been a difficult time for everyone and we've had to tighten our belts a little here, but we've survived and we're excited about being able to reopen.
"I think it will be steady this year, maybe not quite back to normal but obviously better than last year.
"I've been in the catering and hotel industry for more than 50 years and I've never known a time like this but we've just got to keep going."
The couple will welcome their first guests on Friday May 21, the first of s a steady stream of bookings.
At the Highlands pub on Queens Promenade, Bispham, Monday will bring a welcome return to relative normality for manager Mike Hayes.
Mike, who runs the pub business and lease the seafront premises from brewery Thwaites, said: "It's going to make a big difference to us.
"While I have been grateful to be able to serve people outside these last few weeks, it's very weather-dependant and when it's cold, windy and wet people aren't going to sit there for a drink or a meal.
"It's meant that instead of opened from 12 to 11pm , we've been closing at 7pm ever night and sometimes staying shut for days, so being able to get people back in will be great.
"It will be waiter service but hopefully from June our customers can walk up to the bar like the old days - hopefully!
"It's been a horrible time with all the things that have gone on, but the Government's furlough scheme meant we've been able to keep all the staff on - and our brewery Thwaites have been very supportive."
At the Boars Head pub on Preston Old Road, Chris and Karen Bracegirdle welcome the latest easing of lockdown but say the big change will come on June 21, when punters will be able to but drinks at the bar, instead of the waiter service.
The couple, who run the bar as managers for pub firm Dorbiere and take a percentage of the pub earnings, have been serving people on outside tables since April.
Chris said: "Before Covid, we could have two bar staff on with us and we'd be able to serve people from the bar.
"But we need five or six staff to take the orders, carry the drinks over the table, sort out the track and trace and that will still be the same indoors, until thing change in June
"That means we have to pay more people and earn less profit, which has been tough.
"We're taking the hit now and hopefully in the summer we'll be able to get back to normal - we're a community pub and we're proving a service at the end of the day."