THE region's pubs, hairdressers, barbers and restaurants opened this morning for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown, people enjoyed their first pint in a pub and a haircut after three months in what has been dubbed Super Saturday.

Northern Echo readers voted The Cleveland Bay pub the 'best pub in Teesside' at 11am this morning a queue of regulars were waiting for it to reopen.

Brian Lowson, 80, who used to come to the pub three or four times a week, enjoyed the first pint pulled at The Cleveland Bay, in Eaglescliffe.

He said: “It's marvellous to get back. The beer tastes amazing.  

"I always come in on a Sunday but the Sunday it closed down - the 22nd March - was my birthday.

"I need to get my hair cut next.

"My sister is coming down for the first time since the lockdown.

"All the social distancing in place is a good idea."

Emma Wilson and Amy Irvine, bar staff at The Cleveland Bay pub, were happy to get back to work, and to welcome customers after months of the pub being closed.

Emma, who has worked at the pub for two years, said: "People are ordering from two dedicated places. Normally everyone congregates around the bar, but people aren't allowed to do that anymore.

"There is sanitising stations. We work back to back or side by side if possible.

"We're mostly cashless and if people do have change we put it in a box so we don't handle it.

"I think we're going to be busy. This pub is full of regulars.

"I feel safe, I feel like we have to do this eventually."

Tom Reay and Alan Cowper also visited The Cleveland Bay today.

Tom, a friend of landlord Peter Rafferty, helped renovate the pub over the three months of lockdown.

Alan said: "I was quite nervous as I didn't know what to expect but it's nice to be back.

"I had all the symptoms in January I think I had the virus.

"Six weeks ago I was chomping at the bit to get in the door but you get used to it."

Tom said: "I came here the first week of the lockdown to do some little bits and pieces. We didn’t know how long the lockdown was going to go on for.

“I’m really happy to be back I’m looking forward for the day when we don’t have to do the distancing and when it is not in place.

“I don’t agree with it and that’s coming from a father where my daughter has had the virus. She works at North Tees Hospital in an emergency assessment unit as a nurse.”

Landlord Peter Rafferty: "I’m pleased that we’ve opened. It’s a little bit of a quiet start but I’m sure it’ll get busier as the day goes on. 

"Our capacity is 72 less than usual because we’ve taken tables out for greater distancing. 

"I’m feeling excited, we’ll see how it goes."

David Murray, another regular at The Cleveland Bay pub, said: "Because I haven’t drank in so long it tastes rank!

"Just kidding, it tastes nice, it’s great to be out for a change.

"I usually come here two to three days a week and weekends.

"I feel safe going in. It’s about the right time but they need to keep the numbers down."

Dave Johnson, Owner of Hole in the Wall in Darlington, said: "We have a booking system but outside we’re fairly quiet. We’ve already done our bit, it’s up to everyone else now.

"It was a bit last minute getting it all turned around. We’re running at about 50 per cent capacity. It’ll be interesting to see how we manage tonight.

"It’s a bit like Christmas. It’s a little bit of pressure. It’s completely alien."

Ian Johnson, who visited the Hole in the Wall today, said: "It’s the first time I’ve been outside in months. It’s fairly normal and safe out here. I wasn’t planning to come for a drink but I feel safe here."

Chris Metters, manager of The Boot and Show pub in Darlington, said: "Everything’s going fine. We have a booking system through our website. We launched the booking system on Wednesday at 3pm and by 3.30pm we were fully booked.

"People are trying to walk in like it’s normal but we're having to turn them away.

"We have 110 capacity but we’re only letting in 34 and we haven’t opened outside because we want to be able to police outside properly."

Margaret Linley and Rosie O’Neill, who are regulars at The Boot and Shoe were thrilled to finally get back to their local.

Rosie said: "I’ve been coming to this pub since I was 18, I’m 72 now. It’s very different. Obviously there’s social distancing and everyone has to book tables.

"To get out you’ve got to go round the back. It’s a one way system.

"With the booking system it’s like, how long do we know we want to stay for. If you're having a good time you’ll want to stay longer."

Scissors Palace barbers in Darlington had people lining outside the door since 8am.

Tyler Craughton, 18, waited an hour and a half to get his hair cut. He tried to cut his hair himself during the lockdown a few times.

He said: "I’m going to go to the pub after probably. This is my normal barbers. I expected it to be lines out the door."

Jasmin Robson whose husband owns Hash, in Darlington, said: "We’ve got quite a few bookings. We’ve had people in from 12pm. We're only open for drinks.

"There was a big group of lads arrived but we had to turn them away. I think people don’t realise, they think it’s going to be normal."

Demi Hogan, 23, who was waiting to go into Number One, said: "I’m so happy to have a social life back. I’m dying for a drink. We’ve basically just come out because Boris has said we can."

Demi and three of her friends were planning on staying out until 2am with a place at The Gate already booked.

Mr Hutton's Barbers and Bar owned by Anthony Hutton, who was a contestant and winner of series 6 of Big Brother also opened today in Darlington.

Anthony said: "It's the first day back after lockdown so it's been absolutely crazy today everyone's been dying for a hair cut and it's been fantastic getting back in doing what I love. I've missed the gents crack with blokes and I've got a few female clients as well, it's just been really good to get back into the swing of things.

"Safety measures I've lengthened appointments so that gives me time to clean down after each client. Mask for me, masks for clients, sanitisers everywhere, spraying all the equipment everywhere. I've got disposable gowns.

"My first client looked like Tom Hanks from Castaway, honestly it was unbelievable. It's fantastic for a barber of a hairdresser to have long hair because you've got like a blank canvas to work with, there's been some really good transformations today. I think this lockdown has done wonders for our industry because we've seen how important getting a hair cut is. Everyone likes to look good and when you look good it helps that mental mindset as well."

In Durham the scene was a little different streets were empty which looked miles away from the normal bustling city centre.

Although pubs opened the expected queues were nowhere to be seen with bars met with the odd lone drinker.

Billy Gilson, 57, of Durham who was enjoying a pint in The Bishop's Mill said: "I'm really surprised at the turn out today. I thought the pubs would be packed but they're all empty. I think people are too scared but all the guidelines are being kept and I feel really safe.

"I think the weather has played apart aswell but I think we need to look after our town centres because a lot of businesses aren't sure if they will be able to financially stay open."

Jill Carey, owner of the Dun Cow in Durham, said: "We have booked tables throughout the pub to ensure social distancing. We also have limited numbers in the toilets and hand sanitiser throughout.

"We were eligible for a Goverment grant and wouldn't have been able to reopen without help from British Institute of Innkeeping. 

"This is a tester weekend to see if we will manage to stay open as reopening the pub and making it safe takes a lot of time and money."

A passerby, Beka Lee, 27, who lives in Durham said: "I don't think it's the right time to open the hospitality industry and the Government's decision to reduce social distancing to one metre makes me worry infection rates will soar. Going to the pub is not a position I want to put myself or my family in.

"I think pubs should be the last place to reopen when infection rates are at their lowest. Social distancing will go out the window when people start drinking."

Northumbria Police have welcomed the reopening of businesses across the force area – and asked the public to continue to behave responsibly.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: "For months many of us have longed to catch up with friends and family over a few drinks at our favourite pubs and bars - a goal signalling a return to normality.

“But we're not returning to normality just yet, far from it. Social distancing is still very much at play and from this weekend we need to work together to create a new 'normal' for going out, one that is considerate of others and works to keep everyone safe.

"I'm pleased to support local businesses who are able to reopen and am grateful of those who are choosing to bide their time, either to make their venues safer or to open when things have calmed and restrictions have eased further - putting less pressure on services like our police."

Wetherspoons spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are looking forward to opening up our pubs once more and welcoming back customers.

“Our pubs will be safe for customers and staff alike.”