July was a huge turning point in England as lockdown restrictions were further relaxed. People could get their haircut once again, or visit pubs and restaurants in groups of up to six people from different households, as long as social distancing rules were in place.
We spoke to three Nunhead businesses - Napura, Rat Race Cycles and The Waverley Arms - about how lockdown has affected their trade and what easing restrictions means for them.
“We never actually shut completely, we just stopped serving customers inside. We continued to do takeaways and deliveries and were lucky to make enough to pay all of our staff.
“Last Saturday, in line with government guidelines, we reopened our restaurant and customers were allowed to sit inside again. We had 17 customers on the first day, which is obviously a lot less than usual due to social distancing measures, but it was brilliant because it meant we could reopen whilst protecting ourselves and our customers. It’s so important to be safe.
“It didn’t feel busy because of the distancing but it was so great to see so many of our regulars who we have known for a long time. One customer brought their own tablecloth and we’ve heard some people are bringing their own cutlery. It doesn’t bother us! We have hand sanitiser available and are wearing masks and gloves too, we’re doing everything we can to be safe.
“This weekend, we are opening our garden. We’ve made some alterations, for example, the garden area is all under cover now, so it doesn’t matter if it’s raining. We’ve already had one small party out there. Our online booking opened yesterday, but only on our site. So for now you won’t find us on Opentable, make sure you visit our site directly or call up if you want to book.
“We’re not expecting things to go back to normal anytime soon, but we’ve tried to be the best we can. We’ve had loyal customers for a long time and we are here for them.”
Visit Napura, 30 Nunhead Green, 12pm - 11pm, Wednesday to Monday
“Our shop never actually closed and when the Government announced the closures just before lockdown, I remember watching with curiosity and preparing to shut the shop. When the list of essential services was published just a few hours later, bike shops were mentioned - twice in fact - which was a massive relief.
“Though we didn’t close, we had to adapt and change the way the shop operates to ensure we are complying with the guidelines. Customers aren’t allowed in the shop, but you can see most of what we have from outside. We even discovered that you can take contactless payment through the glass window.
“We’ve made other changes too. We used to wear gloves most of the time, but now we wear them all of the time. We disinfect the bikes as they come into and leave the workshop, as well as the door handles, card machines and so on. We’ve also made a conscious effort to make sure all of the windows are constantly open and that the air is free flowing.
“So far, it’s all gone smoothly, but it definitely feels strange to be a business that’s thriving under the current circumstances. We’re busier than we would be in the height of summer. Like everyone else, we’ve been supporting other local shops in Nunhead - it really is brilliant having so many independents so close by.
“We’ve had long queues for our walk-in services. We wanted it to be as fair as possible, so decided appointments first thing in the morning would be best. For bike servicing, the current wait time is four weeks, but our customers have so been kind and patient. A lot of our customers are key workers, so we prioritise them. Sadly, we don’t sell bikes, but one of our suppliers said they were selling three weeks of bikes in a single day.
“I feel that there is a lot of potential for positive change to come out of this situation. There’s been an infrastructure change in London and even if that’s only temporary, hopefully, it shows the potential of bikes in the city and it will be the start of a change in people's transport habits. Nunhead Knocks has been so wonderful for the community, I wish we’d been able to do more but we really have been flat out. The community is so important to us here, the majority of us live in Peckham or Nunhead and at times like these we’re even prouder to be local.”
Visit Rat Race Cycles, 118 Evelina Rd, Nunhead, London SE13 3HL
“Back in March, before lockdown was formally announced, we were waiting for it to happen because we got to the stage where we would have closed anyway. Staying open would have felt irresponsible. Initially, I just kept wondering how were we going to survive and how I’d pay the staff, but once the Government announced the furlough scheme, things calmed down a bit - it was a real lifesaver.
“At the beginning of lockdown I was doing a lot more gardening in my free time and decorating at home. A few months in, we reopened for takeaway drinks which happened almost by accident. We had some beer that needed to be used and, after one successful day, I carried on. I had a table at the door, took the orders and then made the drinks myself. I encouraged card payments where possible and then sanitised when people paid in cash. It was so good to see familiar faces and just to offer someone a pint and have a chat.
“As soon as I realised the pub and our staff were going to be okay, and that I had time to help others, I volunteered to be a driver for Nunhead Knocks. However, it was difficult logistically as I don’t live in the area so I didn’t have as much flexibility. Instead, the pub became a donations hub. We were also able to give away lots of spare food. The generosity of people has been phenomenal. The whole area out the back was overflowing with stuff. Our community is just amazing - people really want to help out.
“Last Saturday we reopened, but only the outside areas. It gives us a chance to get our head around the new system that we've put in place and to readjust to coming back from furlough. We aren’t in a rush to open inside. We are a small team here, and our priority is protecting our staff and our customers and minimising the risk.
“The new safety measures include disinfecting the toilets every half hour and regularly sanitizing each of the three entrances. We are currently using disposable menus, though are moving to holders that are easy to clean between uses. We have signage everywhere reminding customers to follow social distancing rules and to wash their hands. We’d never hold a glass where you’d put your mouth, but now it’s even more important not to in the current climate. There are so many little changes we’ve made to ensure everyone is safe.
“It’s labour intensive but that’s why we aren’t in a rush to open inside - we want to make sure everything is running really smoothly and that we are all used to the new systems. The question people keep asking us now is when they will be able to go back inside, especially to watch sport! But the rules are ambiguous, and we want to avoid having screens everywhere so we are looking at different ways of doing it. We don’t want to lose the ambience we’ve created.
"I’ve seen a lot of our customers since we started doing takeaways and I’ve been overwhelmed by their positive and supportive response. And now that more staff are coming back from furlough, it’s not just me people are seeing!"
Call or email to book at table at The Waverley Arms, 202 Ivydale Rd, London, SE15 3BU
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