MANY businesses in Basingstoke have been celebrating reopening today (Monday, May 17), or welcoming customers indoors for the first time since December.

Leisure facilities such as museums, cinemas, theatres and bowling alleys have been given the green light for reopening.

At the Leisure Park, Hollywood Bowl is back up and running.

One staff member said he’s been on furlough since Christmas Eve and very happy to be back at work.

“You put on so much weight during furlough,” he joked, adding: “And I’ve only had my six-year-old to talk to!”

Manager Antony Teasdale added: “We have really robust measures in terms of Covid security. Our message is have fun, play safe. The Hollywood Bowl way, but not with the same levels of interaction as before.”

Basingstoke Gazette: Antony Teasdale, manger at Hollywood Bowl, Basingstoke Leisure ParkAntony Teasdale, manger at Hollywood Bowl, Basingstoke Leisure Park

Barriers have been installed between bowling lanes, all amusements are cleaned down every 15-30 minutes, and the diner is open for table service only.

Explaining how pleased the team is to be back, he said: “We worked out we’ve done 14 of the past 60 weeks.

“Turning on the lights this morning brought back the reason why we do it.”

Meanwhile, on Church Street, independent coffee house Willows is pleased that customers can once again enjoy the rustic, homey aesthetic of its indoor seating areas.

Indoor hospitality - including restaurants, bars, cafes, and hotels - are also permitted to open back up in the latest stage of lockdown easing.

Willows manager Mary Stevens said: “It’s great, especially in weather like this as we are quite weather dependent.

“Customers have said it’s so nice to be out and be able to come in somewhere and catch up with friends and family.”

Basingstoke Gazette: Owner Mary Stevens (third from left), with deputy manager Ashley (right), daughter Katie and staff member MichaelOwner Mary Stevens (third from left), with deputy manager Ashley (right), daughter Katie and staff member Michael

During lockdown, Willows’ takeaway hatch has been a “godsend” but the team are pleased to be greeting people indoors once more.

“It’s odd, but to feel this relief and such excitement doing something normal.”

The cafe has put ‘welcome back tickets’ on each seating area, which explain the procedures in place. Masks are worn by all staff members, and a one way system and cleaning regime are in place.

The front door remains open, and the downstairs area has vents which are opened too.

“Customers are welcoming it, because it means they feel secure,” said Mary.