PUBS and bars are set to reopen across the country this weekend following the lifting of restrictions by the Government.

The Northern Echo spoke to a handful of pubs across the region to find out what measures they have in place to keep staff and customers safe.

One pub landlord is welcoming back punters with a new mural honouring the nation’s heroes.

Alan Marshall, who runs the Duke of Wellington, Consett, had the powerful painting done on the wall of his beer garden.

Local artist Glenn Malpass did the work on the Medomsley Road boozer, which includes a soldier’s silhouette, a Union Flag and poppy fields to recognise the UK’s military.

There is also a rainbow representing the health workers who have put their lives on the line to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

The mural includes the steelworks site, which once dominated the former industrial town’s skyline.

Mr Malpass said: “He wanted to show appreciation to the NHS staff as well as veterans in the military.

“He wanted to show appreciation to all heroes, past present and future.”

Mr Marshall is reopening on Saturday and expects it to be ‘chockablock’.

He said: “I am going to open up but there will be faceguards on the staff and there is no service at the bar.

“It is really all table service, although outside they can do ‘vertical drinking’, or standing up.

“It is up to people to look after themselves as well. It is just common sense.

“I will have to put up the prices by around 20 per cent or something because I am only going to be able to operate at a third of the capacity.

“People have said: ‘Do what you have got to do’. They appreciate we cannot operate at a loss.”

Some pubs are taking bookings to limit the numbers of people in. One pub in Aycliffe village, The Royal Telegraph’s is fully booked on Saturday with regulars wanting to get back in their local.

The landlady, Vicki Craggs, said: “We had a lot of messages from regulars who wanted to come so they have a placed booked on Saturday, this will also give us chance to see how things work in the pub. I will be taking it week by week and keeping things low key.”

Many of the pubs we spoke to said they would not be allowing groups of over six people in. There are strict rules set in place about movement with The King’s Head in Bishop Auckland operating a one in one out system and in through the front and exit through the back so no one can cross paths.

Pub chains like Sizzlers, Wetherspoons, and Greene King are urging their customers to download their app to order, to avoid contact when ordering and paying.

Some like the Fighting Cocks in Durham and The Cobblers in Newton Aycliffe are requesting a name and phone number for a ‘track and trace’ system, so that if there was a breakout traced back to the establishment the customers could be contacted.

Others still need time to make changes and prepare for reopening, one pub in Bishop Auckland, The Station Hotel will reopen but not until July 20. The landlady, Cheryl Jeffrey said: “Use I feel it’s not safe to open yet as a Saturday it will be carnage and will need doors monitored and I feel like he opening 20th the dust will settle.”

Some pubs are not opening at the weekend but will open at further notice. Such as the Merry Monk and the Green Tree in Bishop Auckland and the Phoenix club in Newton Aycliffe.

Others have been hit hard and may not open for the ‘foreseeable future’ such as the Golden Lion in Leadgate and The Black Bull in Frosterley Weardale, both pubs say that social distancing is not ‘financially viable. One venue in Bishop Auckland Bar Tutstas is closing all together after eight years of business.

The Council and the police are urging people to adhere to social distancing and be responsible. Extra neighbourhood wardens will be patrolling to reassure the public and responding to any low level anti-social disturbances. Extra street cleaners will also be out at the weekend.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This next stage of reopening town centres is an important step to the recovery of our town centre economy which has been significantly impacted by the outbreak of the virus.

"With more businesses looking to reopen from this weekend, more people will be encouraged to visit our town centres and shop locally, bringing money back into the county’s economy.

“As more people return to our town centres it is equally important that we all continue to be responsible and considerate to others, and follow the guidance set out by government at all times. This is to ensure we can all shop and visit our town centres safely, confidently, and without risk of further spread of the virus.”

Steve White, Acting Durham Police Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, said: “Whilst things will look and be a little bit different it is really good to see businesses reopening as we move to the next stage.

"We appreciate that people want to have a good time, but as they do so we encourage them to act responsibly and with consideration to others.

"We are asking people to follow the key advice of know your limits, plan your day and consider how you will get home safely.”