New experience for drinkers as Axminster pubs prepare to reopen

  Posted: 24.06.20 at 14:16 by Philip Evans

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Axminster’s most extensive hospitality outlet – the historic George Hotel, England’s first coaching posthouse – will be opening again on July 4th following Boris Johnson’s announcement that social distancing will be reduced from two metres to one-plus.

A spokesperson for the owners, South Coast Inns, has confirmed that The George will be back in business on Saturday week and they were awaiting further advice from the government. The emphasis, however, will be ensuring all customers and staff will be safe with social distancing strictly observed.

The 18th century hostelry where Lord Nelson slept in Georgian times and King George III wined and dined when he visited Thomas Whitty’s carpet factory, was once the social centre of the town.

It was where the gentlemen farmers of East Devon gathered after the cattle market to enjoy a silver service lunch in the days before all-day opening but with extended licensing hours on a Thursday.

But The George stood empty for decades until South Coast Inns, who own ten other pubs and hotels, invested £550,000 restoring it to its former glory.

The George has a spacious bar and restaurant on the ground floor and 14 en-suite bedrooms. Its unique Adam Room, with its minstrels' gallery, used by Army commanders planning D-Day in the Second World War, has also been refurbished for functions.

It also has a spacious outside sitting area which will assist with meeting the government’s instructions with regard to serving alcohol.

The hotel is also accepting accommodation bookings from July 4th.

An inn stood on the town centre site before The George was built, in 1760. It is said that in pre-Georgian times the Earl of Monmouth and his supporters stopped there, Judge Jefferies spent a few nights there and Oliver Cromwell billeted his troops and had his headquarters at the old George.

The George was one of the many posthouses on the route between Exeter and London and it is recorded that more than 16 coaches a day would stop at the Axminster hotel for refreshments and to change horses.

The guidelines published yesterday (June 23rd), ahead of lockdown measures easing on July 4th, ask restaurant and pub owners to ensure that customers can enjoy a meal and a drink with minimised risk to public health. 

Included are the obvious measures - such as ensuring social distancing, cleaning bathrooms and reducing contact between people - however, certain precautions are likely to alter the atmosphere inside venues considerably. 

Not only will they welcome fewer people, to ensure that customers are sat further apart, but the stereo or football match on the TV will also be turned down.

The guidance reads: "All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. 

"This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult." 

This is because as people start shouting or speaking up they are more likely to launch the virus into the air and spread it to other customers - so-called ‘aerosol transmission’.

Pubs and restaurants will also be asked to get their customers to order food directly to their tables using a smartphone app, where possible. 

Another casualty of the coronavirus restrictions is the bottle of vinegar and jar of mayonnaise, as the Government encourages businesses to replace these with disposable alternatives. 

And gone are the days of picking up your own knives and forks at the counter. Cutlery should only be brought to the table with the food, according to the Government recommendations. 

Meanwhile, queues are here to stay, as the guidance to ensure that people wait their turn outside venues is put in place. 

This will mean that managers have to co-operate with their neighbours to ensure that queues waiting to get into two different premises do not mingle. 

This co-operation could stretch as far as staggering opening times to ensure that people are not queuing and taking public transport to the venue at the same time.

The Lamb Inn in Lyme Road and the Axminster Inn in Silver Street have also confirmed they will be reopening from July 4th.

Axminster Inn landlords Gary and Karen Needs said: "We are all ready to welcome our customers back after a long few months. New garden furniture to enjoy, alongside all government guidelines in our sun-trap beer garden. So excited for this!"

Other pubs in Axminster include the Red Lion in Lyme Road and The Castle Inn in Castle Hill.

Axminster Nub News will be pleased to publish details of plans by the other licensed premises in the area to reopen. Please contact Philip Evans on 07796 951 991 to share your plans.

We are also offering FREE business directory listings to all pubs, restaurants, shops and other businesses in the Axminster area. Simply visit our Local List page and click the 'Nub It' button to submit your details.

Devon is in a good position to start welcoming back visitors following the government's announcement yesterday (Tuesday) that overnight stays ...