BUSINESSES in Darlington have provided a mixed response on whether customers will have to wear face coverings after Monday, July 19. 

Face coverings have been mandatory in shops, bars and restaurants, and on public transport for the past year to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Most Covid restrictions will be removed on Monday, and while Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he expects masks to be worn in crowded places, they will no longer be compulsory.

The Northern Echo spoke to businesses around Darlington to find out if they will be following Government guidance. 

Carly Wood, manager at Hash Bar and Kitchen on Coniscliffe Road, said the venue will initially operate below full capacity, but staff and customers won't be forced to wear a mask inside.

She said: "We're going to let people choose what they want to do, especially staff. If they feel comfortable wearing a mask then they can. 

"If they don't want to then they don't have to but there's no pressure. 

"If it gets really busy in here then we will probably tell people to wear them to keep the staff safe."

The Northern Echo:

Carly said all staff are excited to serve customers inside, on the terrace and out the front of the bar.

"We've got a meeting in place before Monday with all staff," she added. "A lot of our staff haven't worked while its been at full capacity so some of them are quite nervous. We're going to talk to all staff and ensure everything runs smoothly. 

"It's exciting that we're going back to normal again, and it's fun to work with a full bar.

"There's a lot of rules with hospitality that we have had to follow. It will be nice not having to stop everyone before they come in and have to ask them about masks. It's going to be nice to be normal again." 

READ MORE: Calls to make face masks MANDATORY on public transport

At Neapolitan Pizzeria and Enoteca Stable Hearth, on Duke Street, owner and head pizza chef Nicholas Thexton is concerned about another potential lockdown in the Autumn. 

"I have advised all staff members to wear a mask as soon as they step through the door," he said. 

"I'm not too happy about the face mask rules being told to go because I think it's a stupid idea, considering you see other countries who relaxed their rules have been forced into a u-turn. 

"Most of our customers don't mind wearing masks but there is going to be a percentage of the public that think the world's going to go back to normal, and it's far from it."

The Northern Echo:

The pizzeria was forced to close last month due to staff members self-isolating, meaning the business missed out on it's Father's Day trade. 

Nicholas added: "We've got two staff who are currently having to self-isolate because they've been pinged. It's hard at the moment, and we're trying to get back open to a five to six day week, but currently we've not got everyone to do that. 

"I'm excited about seeing the restaurant back at full capacity but I also think that come October we might be going back into another lockdown. 

"It's good to get our customers back and see new customers come in and experience what we do. 

"But it's still a little bit daunting. We're hoping for the best but we don't know what's going to happen."

The Northern Echo:

Customers and staff will also continue to wear masks at hair salon Cutting Edge Hair & Beauty,  on McMullen Road.

Owner Jane Hodgson said: "I have taken the decision to carry on with masks. I feel at this moment in time as cases are rising that for your protection and my teams protection as we are very close contact.

"For such a terrible year I want to do everything I can to stop us getting closed due to isolation. I hope you all understand. I will keep monitoring the situation."

Shoppers at the Cornmill Shopping Centre will be advised to continue to wear face coverings, but will not force people to wear them. 

A spokeswoman for New River, which owns the centre, said: "We will continue to operate in a cautious and safe way at our centre to help protect both our customers and our staff, and we will therefore operate with the following recommendations from July 19, in addition to any Government guidelines.

The Northern Echo:

"We will recommend that face coverings continue to be worn, but this will not be statutory. 

"It will be personal choice whether one wants to wear a face covering. We will also retain access to hand gels and sanitisers for visitors to use.”

Stonegate Group, owner of Darlington Flyer, Golden Cock and Old English Gentleman did not respond to comment. 
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