'It's going to take time for demand to come back', West End boss warns

"It's going to take time for demand to come back" Jace Tyrrell from the New West End Company told ITV News as non-essential shops reopened for business.

Shoppers wasted no time getting back to London's West End early on Monday morning as England's lockdown restrictions eased.

Long queues formed outside some of the West End's biggest department stores as shops, hairdressers, pub beer gardens and pavement cafes reopened for business.

April snow showers made al fresco dining a chilly prospect in parts of London but the wintry conditions appeared to do little to dampen enthusiasm as customers queued outside shops and waited for hairdressers to cut locks after months without a trim.

The Prime Minister urged caution during the “major step forward” as a scientist advising the Government warned the rules must be followed to minimise a possible rebound in case numbers.

Early morning shoppers on Oxford Street in central London

“I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” Mr Johnson said.

“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”

In England, pubs and restaurants have been making changes during lockdown to maximise their ability to serve customers outside.

But the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that just 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

In response to the easing of restriction, the Metropolitan Police said it will be “stepping up” patrols in high footfall areas from Monday.

Jane Connors, the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, said: “The Met is ready to welcome back people to the streets of London. We will be stepping up our patrols to busy high footfall areas, to look out for everyone’s safety and to disrupt any criminal activity.

“Of course, where we need to take action against those who dangerously flout the rules we will do. While the case rate has declined in London, we have seen the concerning position in northern Europe. It is important that we all stick to the rules so further lockdowns, or restrictions, are avoided.”

The next significant date is May 17, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the “rule of six” – if the Prime Minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.

People enjoy eating and drinking outside in central London

Pub and hospitality bosses have said they will “not get too excited” despite pouring pints for customers for the first time in more than three months.

Industry leaders have called for caution, warning that the sector’s recovery will take a long time, while more than half of venues remain shut due to ongoing restrictions.

Around 38% of licensed premises in the UK have the outdoor space needed to reopen today, according to figures from CGA and Alix Partners.

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s, said the London-based pub group is still awaiting the next dates on the Government’s road map despite reopening around 140 pubs.

“Today is just a very small step towards getting our business back to anywhere near viability,” he said.

“However, let’s not get too excited as we still cannot serve indoors. Even on May 17, we will not be trading anywhere near normal.”

He said “we will get our lives back” when the final phase of the road map takes place and all restrictions on trading are eased, putting pressure on the Government to stick to its schedule.

Mr Dardis said: “The key day for UK pubs, restaurants, the economy and jobs is ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21.

“What is for sure, we need the Prime Minister to honour his commitment to the nation to ensure that June 21 is indeed ‘Freedom Day’.

“He must not be allowed to backtrack on that commitment.”

Customers enjoy a drink at the reopening of the Terrace Bar at Alexandra Palace, London

Roger Wade, founder and chief executive of Boxpark, said he was pleased to reopen sites but was critical of the decision to keep indoor hospitality shut and said more financial support may be needed for the sector.

He said: “Despite the difficult times our resilient industry has endured, we have remained optimistic and used this time to focus on progressing our future plans, as well as doing what we can to improve our current offering and visitor experience.

“While it’s great to be opening our doors for the first time in months, the reopening of hospitality has been delayed for far too long – and it seems nonsensical to reopen non-essential shops before hospitality businesses can serve customers indoors.”

Tap below to watch video report by Martin Stew