'Now we learn to live with it': City raring to go for Freedom Day
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
It is time to head back to Norwich - for good.
That was the message from government after Boris Johnson confirmed that 'Freedom Day' would be going ahead on July 19.
The prime minister confirmed that all restrictions would be lifted in a fortnight as the UK learns to live with the virus.
The news was welcomed - albeit cautiously - by businesses across the city.
Richard Chisnell, owner of the Fat Fox Pizza Den on Prince of Wales Road, was aiming to open conjoining business cocktail bar Sherbet Lemon on June 21 but put it back until all restrictions are lifted.
Following a soft launch on July 17, he will open the venue for good on July 22, saying: "I cannot wait to open. We've got bills coming out but no money coming into the till. At some point we had to reopen the economy or we'd start losing even more businesses.
"The main concern for me is clarity over the rules. Obviously people are calling it Freedom Day and yet there's still conversations going on about masks and whether people need to where them and why. I've seen people over the past week mingling on Prince of Wales and not socially distancing but then they go into bars and abide by the rules.
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"I just need to know as a business owner what I need to be asking people to do."
The prime minister wasn't immediately forthcoming with such details, saying on Monday evening: "Legal requirement to wear face coverings will be lifted, although guidance will suggest people might choose to do so in enclosed and crowded places.”
Mr Chisnell was echoed by Phil Cutter of historic pub The Murderers on Timberhill, who said: "I am nervously holding my breathe that this could be the return we've all been waiting for.
"It'll be absolutely brilliant to see people back at the bar. Obviously we love our businesses but at the end of the day we need to make some money - with the football season around the corner this will be a boost we all need.
"I think the Prime Minister is right in saying that this is something we need to learn to live with. Luckily for us, we're in Norfolk which does feel exceedingly safe because of how well people have played by the rules.
"There will be things which have come out of this pandemic which we'll keep. Table service for one, and also the massive opportunity the council gave us with outside seating which has given this part of the city some real vibrancy."
A spokesman for the Norwich Lanes also drove home how important it is to shop locally as the economy powers back to full strength: “It has never been more important to shop local and spend with the independent businesses around us. They are the lifeblood of our communities and what makes this county tick.
“The Norwich Lanes are arguably the largest, all independent city centre business community, to be found anywhere in the UK. With support from the good people of Norwich and Norfolk, our businesses can thrive and help keep it that way."
And July 19 marks the end of the work from home mandate.
This will be good news not just for workers keen to get back to the hub bub of their office, but also for the high street as a whole.
Centre for Cities’ director of policy and research, Paul Swinney, said: “At the end of May just 34pc of people had returned to their workplaces in Norwich. While I’m expecting this figure to increase in the weeks and months ahead as people return to normality, it’s very possible that many businesses will adopt more hybrid forms of working.
“There will be both short and long-term consequences of hybrid office working. In the short term it will create more problems for central Norwich's cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops that used to rely on custom from office workers. In the longer term for those businesses that go hybrid there will be the challenge of a drop in creativity as more home working means fewer ‘watercooler’ moments.”