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Businesses get ready to open their doors

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ISLAND businesses are gearing up to re-open their doors as a gradual exit from the coronavirus lockdown starts next week.

Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (28280393)

Retailers, pubs, restaurants and visitor attractions are all weighing up the viability of reopening in line with plans to move to a soft lockdown on Tuesday.

While some businesses are aiming to open as soon as possible once they are given the go-ahead by the government, others are being more cautious and say it will take longer to overcome the challenges involved in resuming trading.

Jersey Zoo has published details of how it plans to open for up to 500 visitors per day, with designated slots to be booked in advance to prevent overcrowding and a range of distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Jersey’s Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Murray Norton, said he was pleased to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but that shops in St Helier would have to cope with a reduction in footfall, measured last week at 78%.

‘Chamber members vary in size and sector, as do their views on reopening,’ he said. ‘For most a cautious and sensible approach is of paramount importance.’

Mr Norton said the Chamber was working with government on the details and would be holding a webinar for businesses this afternoon. He added that he hoped that any business which had received financial support from the government in recent weeks would not suffer financially for attempting to reopen, with trading unlikely to achieve previous levels of profitability straight away.

The Island’s two biggest pub companies will, to begin with at least, adopt different paths out of lockdown.

Randalls managing director Gavin Reid said that he hoped around half of the group’s 25 managed pubs, plus a handful of tenanted outlets, would be able to trade once the current level four status switched to level three next week.

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Randalls pubs will only be able to serve customers in outdoor seating areas, with reservations available for 90-minute slots and alcohol served only to customers ordering food.

Liberation Group has no immediate plans to reopen any of its 13 managed pubs, with chief executive Jonathan Lawson saying it was too early.

But the group restarted its brewing operation this week in order to supply beer to outlets that were opening.

Ministers unveiled initial details of their exit strategy last Friday, with 12 May provisionally designated as the date to move to the soft lockdown phase – level three.

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The plan includes a subsequent move to level two, with more businesses reopening and the hospitality sector able to operate indoors, as well as the prospect of some easing of travel restrictions.

No date has been earmarked for the move to level two, the so-called ‘soft opening’ phase, or for the final stage of the exit process – level one, where physical distancing would remain a fundamental requirement but most elements of Island life would be operational once again.

Dominic Jones, director of JP restaurants, said there were still major question marks over how hospitality operations could resume trading.

‘It’s been positive to be able to think about the future rather than manage the present, but we need to see more detailed guidelines about distancing and health concerns in order to judge what is sustainable,’ he said. ‘There’s been a suggestion we may get more detail this Friday, which doesn’t leave much scope for planning to reopen next Tuesday. I would prefer to open slightly later, rather than rush into it.’

While some retailers are yet to make definite decisions about reopening, the JEP understands that Voisins and the clothing outlets operated by Sandpiper CI are set to welcome customers next week.

Dunell's is also due to open its Beaumont shop on Wednesday.

After closing all of its sites in late March, just as many were about to open for the 2020 summer season, Jersey Heritage said it was looking at options for the possible reopening of sites such as Elizabeth Castle and Mont Orgueil Castle.

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