As of Monday 12 April shops and pubs have reopened after a long four months of tight lockdown restrictions. There’s a sense of jubilance and relief amongst shop owners and staff. The new rules allow for dining and drinking in pubs and restaurants with outdoor spaces, with “substantial meals” scrapped.
Indoor shops have reopened for customers to come back in and browse, though there are some restrictions in shops on how many people can be inside at any one time. Likely the most anticipated places to reopen, hairdressers and beauty salons have seen early morning rushes and lunchtime queues.
Hounslow council welcomed Monday’s partial reopening but reiterated there still are rules to follow, echoing comments from the Prime Minister to “behave responsibly”. On Twitter the council said: “Don’t Blow It! When you’re out and about, keep following the rules. Remember: Hands, Face, Space.”
The Chiswick Calendar’s reporter Matt Smith spoke to some local businesses to see how the first day of loosened restrictions went.
The Crown – 210 Chiswick High Road
Staff at The Crown pub seemed happy to be back working, with a number of tables occupied after the lunch rush. They’re fully booked most evenings up until next week, so it would be recommended to book before hand – unless you’re going in during the early-afternoon lull like I did.
About 60% of tables were still available, taking into account both the front terrace and the covered garden area. The manager, Violeta, said the opening was going “fabulous and amazing”.
“Very busy actually, we have a full house today later on and also Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – which is incredible! Obviously we only have a full house taking into consideration we only have the garden and the front terrace.
“We have 25 covers allowed for the front terrace allowed by out licence, and inside [the garden] we have 65, so it’s pretty good. We’re all very excited and everyone is super super happy to be back to work and, kind of, normal life again.
“Some of our regular customers, that we’ve known for quite a while ago, they were basically jumping and saying ‘yaaaay!’ because we were open again. So yeah, very very good.”
Damsel – 11A Devonshire Road
Open since 2005, Damsel is run by sisters Kat and Oz. The boutique is filled with independent labels and contemporary designers, offering ‘unique yet wearable’ with relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Kat was dealing with a customer when I walked in but made the effort to greet me with a smile (at least as far as I could tell… face-masks!).
Up to two “bubbles” of people are allowed in the store at the same time. If too many people come in then you’d likely be asked to wait for someone else to leave before entering.
“It’s good to see everyone out and about” said Kat. Monday morning wasn’t a rush at Damsel but:
“It’s been steady, it’s not been crazy. I think a lot of people, because of the Easter holidays, I think a lot of people have been able to get away this week.
“It’s been nice and steady. Lots of regulars, lots of new faces too. It’s nice that the sun came out because it’s been snowing this morning! But it feels nice, it’s buzzy and it’s lovely”.
Riccado – 204 Chiswick High Road
Riccardo sell ‘exclusive modern’ branded clothing, their first store opened in Turnham Green in the 1980s. Following the success of the business throughout the 1990s, they moved to Chiswick High Road in 2002 and have been there ever since.
Unlike other online retailers, Riccardo are not looking to mass market their products and prefer a personalised service to local people to make them look ‘unique and original’. In 2020, in response to the pandemic, they launched an online store.
When you walk in you’re greeted by a little dog at the front door, unsure if he’s a regular fixture but it’s welcoming, if you like dogs that is. The manager Shivani said there was a morning rush. “We’ve been busy, it’s great. I think people are just happy for things to be open again.”
Gesturing to the rest of the staff, she added: “In the morning we were a little bit nervous weren’t we? We were fully sanitised and everything was ready.” Shivani said they were less worried about Covid and more worried about whether customers would come in or not.
“There’s a bit of a lunchtime lull now, normally we’d get busy again mid-afternoon after lunch. It’s the regulars are coming back first and then the rest will follow. Normally after every lockdown too, people have been quite positive and not very nervous [with Covid], they’ve just come straight back in again.”
West and Hunter – 125 Chiswick High Road
West and Hunter is not so much a barbershop, more as a ‘luxury male grooming experience’. The owner, Zamaine Ismail, is luxury barber to an elite group of celebrities (footballers and musicians – oh, and me!).
This is his first barbershop in Chiswick which opened up in October. At around lunch time there was only one person in the chairs. But Zamaine told me it had been “nice and busy consistently” in the morning. He also said he was grateful to the support West & Hunter have got from the local community.
Big Jim’s Trims – 6 Devonshire Road
Around the corner on Devonshire road, there was queues stretched past two shops for Big Jim’s Trims barbers. Open since 2000, Big Jim’s Trims has been ‘one of West London’s top barbers’. Their website says ‘We are dedicated to offering first-class customer service by giving you exactly what you want at an affordable price.’
Because they were so busy I couldn’t get in to ask how they were going, but judging by the queues out the door which were there for the hour or so I was walking High Road, they’re pretty busy. Big Jim’s employs professional men’s barbers and hairstylists who offer variety of barber services from a haircut & finish to beard trims.
The Roebuck – 122 Chiswick High Road
Back from the dead, it’s as if The Roebuck had never closed. It was by far the busiest venue I had popped into or walked past today.
Last March, the owners of the Roebuck, Food & Fuel, went into administration. It has since been bought by Brunning & Price who also own The Steam Packet by Kew Bridge. Luckily, they have managed to retain some of their original staff from 2020 too.
The manager, Josh, told me:
“We’re fully booked for the next week. Everyone has been super supportive. Unfortunately we are not able to accommodate everyone – but the tables out the front are first come-first serve which I never allow to be booked. So hopefully our locals can get their foot in.
“The outback is purely bookings where we have 120 covers and theres about 26 covers on our front tables.
On being back open, Josh said: “It’s really incredible, so exciting, I’m like tigger! Absolutely brilliant.”
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