“It’s a daunting and unknown world.” Local independent cafes prepare to welcome back their customers

Dene Valley Heritage Cafe is among those preparing to reopen in Bishop Auckland
Dene Valley Heritage Cafe is among those preparing to reopen in Bishop Auckland

After over three months of closure, independent cafes across Bishop Auckland are preparing to reopen their doors to the community.

Following a recent announcement by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson giving the hospitality industry the green light to reopen from Saturday, July 4, cafes across Bishop Auckland plan to reopen from this date, but some had mixed emotions after the announcement.

Phil Elliott, owner of Breaking Bread Kitchen and Bakehouse, formerly known as Castlegate Cafe, which is located in the Market Place said: “It is a daunting and unknown world at the moment, and we feel the anxiety that our customers may have.”

Meanwhile, Krystal Wilson who helps husband Arron run Dene Valley Heritage Cafe on Eldon Lane said they “are feeling a bit apprehensive.”

She said: “We have done well to maintain profits through deliveries while we have been closed because we have tapped into a new market of people using us who have been furloughed through the pandemic.

“Where we are located, we get a lot of the community coming in such as the elderly, who now may not want to venture back out, and our new market of customers may not be available during the daytime.

“However, we are excited as we previously only occupied half of the downstairs in the building but in order to allow social distancing we have extended and acquired another two rooms.”

Mrs Wilson explained more about the renovation work they have carried out on the cafe. 

She said: “Now that we have survived a global pandemic, we’ve had to empty old rooms and we have donated equipment to the village.

“My husband and I have been doing all of the paint work inside and out and creating the best space possible that we can, so that customers can move around safely.”

Breaking Bread Kitchen and Bakehouse have also recently had a revamp while they have been closed during lockdown. 

Mr Elliott said: “We have had the café redecorated inside and out which we had been hoping to do anyway, and we have also changed the flooring which will make it easier to clean.

“We changed the décor to make it more modern to fit in with the style of the area such as the new museums.”

Safety measures have also been put in place by cafe owners in accordance with government guidelines.

These include the availability of hand sanitizer, limitations on the number of customers in a cafe at one time, and ensuring customers practice social distancing. 

Faye Miller, who co-owns Spudfellas with her partner, which is situated on Fore Bondgate said: “We will take bookings only, we have hand sanitizer available and we have printed the government guidelines.

“We will also make sure customers maintain the appropriate distance from each other.”

Mr Elliott from Breaking Bread Kitchen and Bakehouse said: “We will reduce the capacity of customers in our café, we will do table orders as usual, we will have hand sanitizer and surfaces will be wiped down.

“We hope that our regulars will come back and we will take contactless whenever possible, but customers can still use cash.”

Mrs Wilson from Dene Valley Heritage Cafe also mentioned the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff members. 

She said: “Staff will be wearing PPE, we have put screens up at tills and will provide table service rather than customers coming to the till to prevent congregation.”

Some independent cafes have also offered deliveries and collections throughout the lockdown period. 

Orders from both Spudfellas and Dene Valley Heritage Cafe can be placed on Facebook Messenger or over the phone. 

Meanwhile, Mr Elliott has attended open markets and the bakery area has been open for deliveries. 

He said: “We attended a market on June 5 in Stokesley, North Yorkshire and we also go to a weekly one at Barnard Castle.

“We will offer takeaways when we reopen, our bakery is currently doing deliveries and if people live close they can collect the food they ordered.”

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