"It's surreal but so welcome to come back" - jubilant indoor customers sup on first pints poured in York's pubs amid concerns about Indian variant

A Monday afternoon wouldn’t usually see punters queuing outside The Swan in York gasping for a pint.

But as landlord Paul Crossman opened the doors to the pub on Bishopgate Street, delighted customers waiting for their first indoor pub drink in almost six months were ushered in to savour a first sip.

The convivial atmosphere of a good pub has been much missed by 41-year-old Tom Adams who had the honour of having the first pint of Landlord poured for him.

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“I’ve really missed it and am slightly emotional,” he said. “It’s surreal but so welcome to be able to come back.”

Pub landlord and campaigner Paul Crossman opened the doors of the Swan in York yesterday

Mr Adams was joined by his friend Dave Potter 49 - who he had bumped into on the street and invited for a drink in the sort of social interaction that friends have been sorely missing over the last months of lockdown.

Mr Potter said: “I just bumped into Tom and he asked me to join - I was supposed to be doing a pressure wash this afternoon so this is much preferable!”

But amid the joviality, concerns were raised about the impact that the Indian variant of coronavirus may have on re-opening. Cases of the variant were identified in York last week.

Paul Crossman, who is also the licensee of nearby pubs the Slip Inn and the Volunteer Arms, said: “It’s a very nice stage to have reached, we’ve not been open since October.

Dave Potter (left) and Tom Adams (right) were the first two customers at the Swan Pub

“It’s a massive day for us but we have been watching the news over the weekend. I’m not cavalier about the virus, and it is a concern. If they shut us down again, the Government will have to give us more support.”

At the nearby restaurant Angel on the Green, owner Roger Thorpe said his phone is ringing off the hook with customers wanting to make reservations - and even though the restaurant is not due to open until Wednesday, eager punters were knocking on the door to try for a sought-after table.

But he shares concerns that the slight increase in case numbers may mean hospitality isn’t out of the woods for further lockdowns.

Mr Thorpe said: “The thirst is out there, but I’m worried about it. We only put in a small order for beer next week, I don’t want to be left with loads again if we have to shut.

“We’ve had great support from the local community and I’m feeling cautious optimism," said Roger Thorpe (left), owner of Angel at the Green. Also pictured, staff member Ben Hawkins (right)

“We’ve had great support from the local community and I’m feeling cautious optimism.”

The restaurant will only open five days a week as Mr Thorpe has struggled to recruit a full complement of management staff and chefs, many of whom before the pandemic were non-British citizens who have returned to their home countries over the past year.

At Bishopthorpe Road’s other Italian restaurant, Trinacria, assistant manager Kristina Matuseviciute was busy putting the finishing touches on preparations before it re-opens for indoor customers tomorrow.

She said: “I’m very excited. It’s going to be strange but we will do our best.”

More relaxed customers hoping to walk in this weekend are going to face disappointment, she said. “We are fully booked this weekend - but we do have outside rain cover if people don’t mind staying outside.”