PUBLICANS have spoken of their relief after being given the green light to reopen again after nearly three months.

The Government’s plan to reduce the two-metre social distancing rule to ‘one metre plus’ from July 4 has paved the way for pubs, restaurants and hairdressers to welcome back customers.

Social venues across the UK have been shut since March when the lockdown was enforced to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Charles Townsend, owner of the White Hart pub in Halstead High Street, admits he was jubilant when the latest plans to ease the lockdown were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He has confirmed his staff have been placed on the Government’s furlough scheme - which sees it pay 80 per cent of employee wages - since the pub was forced to close.

Mr Townsend said: “It’s a relief. Reopening will undoubtedly be good for business and we’re looking forward to it.

“We’re not in any real dire straits yet but we would be if this carried on and at the end of the day, we need to make money.

“We’ve got plans to make things safe like plastic screens in front of the bar, more outdoor tables, hand sanitiser, and our staff will be wearing masks and gloves.

“I’m looking forward to reopening and welcoming people back but we’re also going to help everyone stay safe.”

Darren Lingley, owner of the Five Bells in Colne Engaine, has also welcomed the news.

He said: “We are looking to open the Five bells on July 4 but outdoor areas only.

“We’re jubilant about getting customer back in but we’ve got to be reactionary.

“Seats are going to be rare but we’re eager to get back to it.”

Despite the positive news, Mr Lingley admits there is still a lack of clarity over how pubs will be able to operate.

He added: “We’re in this horrible grey area and right now we need things to be black and white.

“We’ve been having team meetings and talked about security and safety but also about getting our customer’s fear factor out of the way.

“The brewers aren’t brewing and it’s similar with food.”

Under the new rules, hotels, campsites and caravan parks will also open again, while weddings can be held with up to 30 people attending.

Two households of any size will be able to meet up indoors and stay overnight for the first time since the lockdown began, providing social distancing is maintained at all times.

The changes to the lockdown come as Public Health England says the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Braintree district since the pandemic began now stands at 253.

The lockdown has been a difficult period for businesses such as pubs who have been found it very difficult to generate income.

Having run pubs for years, Darren is concerned, believing many pubs will have a grim future ahead of them.

He added: “The industry has had twelve years of problems. There was the recession and Brexit and now this.

“We’ve been bashed around, and I reckon a quarter of pubs won’t reopen. There is a lot of pain in the industry at the moment.

“There has been a huge cull in the number of pubs, and this could be the nail in the coffin for more, not just pubs but restaurants too.

“We’ve got to focus on selling the experience which is hard to do under the regulations.

“People can buy beer at home and they can get food delivered.

“They come to a pub to see their mates, have a chat at the bar, and we need to figure out how we’re going to offer the same feeling under current restrictions.

“Seats are going to be rare but we’re eager to get back to it.”