Pubs and restaurants across Hackney will be allowed to open indoors from today as businesses in the borough continue to navigate the new and uncertain landscape.
The wider reopening, which will see groups of six people or two households able to mix inside, comes just days after coronavirus variants of concern were found in Dalston and Shoreditch.
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has urged all those reopening or going back to work today in the affected areas to get a test.
At a recent Town Hall meeting, Omar Haque, operator of the Dalston branch of popular dessert joint Creams, gave an insight into the preparations for reopening.
Haque, who hopes to be able to extend his opening hours until 1am for a takeaway and delivery service, said: “We sell desserts, anything from waffles to ice creams and gelatos. We do hot drinks and coffees, and have been in the community for quite a while.”
He added: “We have had to change the way we operate in terms of providing a delivery or takeaway service, so we are trying to improve our service in terms of finding new ways to get income and not lay off any type of staff or have any hits to our business.”
Haque explained to listening councillors that seating areas would be blocked off in the evening, as negotiations take place as to whether the shop’s foray into the late-night market would necessitate security guards, and if so whether Creams could afford to provide them.
The meeting saw Creams’ target of a 2am opening scaled back to 1am by councillors who will be deciding whether or not to grant the application, as police present at the meeting, who were not against it being granted, predicted a large spike in visitors to the area.
Licensing officer PC Kerrie Ryan said: “Creams is in the Dalston special policy area, and obviously as the restrictions are eased, we are expecting a huge rise in the number of people on the streets.
“This in turn means we expect to see an increase in antisocial behaviour, theft, violence and disorder. Our concern is that the customer base and people attracted to Creams after 11pm will have consumed varying amounts of alcohol. This is when it can result in confrontation and aggression.”
Ryan added: “I’ve been to lots of incidents down in Dalston and unfortunately you do have violent outbursts down there. If there is a security guard on the door, that will obviously protect the staff and people inside.”
Following the meeting, councillors will be weighing up whether Creams has done enough to reassure them that the extension of its hours will not add to the cumulative impact of licensed premises in the area, even though it will not be serving alcohol itself.
The discussion made clear the ever-increasing challenges for firms in the area, with a click-and-collect service instead of takeaway in the later hours discussed and subsequently dismissed, with Haque pointing out that this could result in more people loitering outside the shop.
Haque, who has invested in an enhanced CCTV system and signage to help keep noise down at night, added: “We would like to prove ourselves so we can continue in the Dalston area. We have been there since 2014, and happy to be there. We just want to increase from what has been a big impact not just for us, but for a lot of businesses in the local area in relation to Covid.”
Speaking ahead of the reopening over the weekend, Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville urged business owners and staff, “especially in Dalston and Shoreditch”, to get tested.
You can find more information on the affected areas and how to get tested here