'It's a godsend': Hampstead pubs and shops back serving the community
- Credit: Michael Boniface
Hampstead pubs, restaurants and shops say they’re looking ahead to “brighter, happier days” after reopening on April 12.
Monday saw hospitality businesses serve customers outdoors under the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions, as gyms and hairdressers welcomed back clients after months out of action.
The Ham&High took a stroll through Hampstead to check in with traders on how they fared with their first day back – and to hear how residents were relieved to pop into their local pub at long last.
On his first pint back at the King William IV, Michael Morrissey, 41, said: “This is all about people getting out and being able to meet again.
“For a lot of older people this is their lifeline. It's not just about the drinking. They come in here and this is where they socialise. It’s lovely to get out to see everyone. Let's hope this is the beginning of a good summer.”
At The Armoury gym in Pond Street, West Hampstead couple Carol Ashton, 75, and Philip Scurry, 83, were back working out together – as part of a group session for cardiac rehab patients.
“It's so exciting to be back,” Carol said. “It’s a big boost because heart patients lose their confidence and with exercise, they get it back slowly.
“So we’ve just been looking forward to this moment so much. We have a good laugh.”
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In South End Green, customers were sitting outside Karma Bread bakery soaking up some April sunshine.
Hasan Demir, the owner of next-door restaurant Zara, said that, despite previous setbacks and lockdowns, this reopening felt different.
“There's a feeling of excitement I didn't even feel when I first opened the restaurant.
“It feels like a celebration and hopefully we’ll soon get back to normal life, as our sense of life was taken away.”
Wandering past South End Green, local resident Kirley Stanislaus said the lockdown had taught him “how we all take things for granted”.
“Once things are taken away from you – like going to the shop – you realise how they much they mean to you.
“A lot of people haven’t got a lot in their lives, so basic things like going back to the shops are a godsend.”
Outside the former Monica clothes shop, Deborah Ong, who is homeless, has set up a temporary stand selling CDs, books and DVDs, called Howard Heath Books.
Deborah said the community was helping her with donations, and the charity shop Octavia Foundation also praised the support of local residents.
Manager Tricia van Geens said: “It was so exciting being back open. It was a bit of an adrenaline rush, we were saying: ‘Come on, like the old days let's move it.’
“It's fantastic to be back and we're looking forward to brighter, happier days.”
In Hampstead High Street, Go Dharmic opened a new pop-up charity shop in the former GAP store.
“We’re so excited to be in Hampstead. The interest has been phenomenal,” the charity’s founder Hemal Randerwala said.
Sitting outside Mani’s in Perrin’s Court, NW3 resident Conrad Blakemore said it had felt “dead” without the community on the streets, and that it was nice seeing people happy again.
In Flask Walk, Sayeh Rafiei, who runs Galton Flowers, described welcoming back customers as a “breath of fresh air”.
“It’s just been absolutely lovely to see them again, and I'm very lucky to be able to pass the whole year through such a difficult time.
“But from the support of my local customers and also the hard work of our business, perhaps I can now say... we survived.”
Ed Robson, from the Duke of Hamilton, said his pub’s return was “long overdue” and that it “almost felt like the first day back at school”.
“It’s great being back, seeing smiling faces, the beers pouring, and the weather picking up,” he told this newspaper.
Kam Rafiee, general manager of the Garden Gate pub, said it was brilliant to have his staff back in work.
“It’s great to see some of the regulars again,” he said.
“I think everyone's on that high of being able to go back out and see their mates, sit down and have people bring them stuff.
“Restrictions are easing, and this is just another step to normality.”