The easing of Covid-19 restrictions combined with sunny weather and a weekend in banks has caused thousands of people to flock to bars and restaurants across Northern Ireland.
Long lines formed outside the many bars as friends and families celebrated the reopening of in-house hospitality, and city centers, including Belfast and Derry, were filled with visitors.
The majority of hotels were fully booked over the weekend after Northern Ireland took a major step out of lockdown restrictions.
While some bars reported similar trade for previous bank weekends, others were left low and forced to close their doors to large crowds.
Oona Burns, manager of Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen in Coe Fermanagh, said her stock was out because it was so busy.
“Our bar has been open since 1944 and I don’t think our stock has ever run out like we did this weekend. We never expected it to be this busy,” she said.
“This was my first week as a manager when the door reopened, so it was like a baptism with fire for me, but it was cool to be open and get back to work again.
“I don’t think any of us were really prepared for how busy we were. We knew it would be crowded but with the bank weekend and good weather and the Europa League Final it was crazy.
«But there was a hype around the place and people were happy to go out. For many, it was the first sign of normalcy returning even with restrictions.»
There were a lot of people from the south going out for residency or for the day
«There were a lot of people from the south who would come for stay or for a day. It was amazing and a real push for hospitality.»
“It was great to see the familiar faces again. People are very happy to stick to the restrictions.
“We just walked and had to turn people away and ended up closing the doors some nights due to the large crowds.
«It’s a good complaint. At the back of that, we decided to open the upstairs lobby next weekend – it hasn’t been open to the public in years. It’s only used for special occasions but now we can take advantage of it as well.»
“We had a really big mix of people, from the hens, the young and the old, to the glamorous ladies and our old clients.
«I think there will be a lot of stays and I’ve found more people are coming to Fermanagh, so hopefully we’ll take advantage of that.»
James McAllister, director of Morning Star Belfast, said the city center was busy as of Friday.
«It was good to get back to normal life,» he added.
«Although instead of ordering one round of drinks at the bar, people were asking for three rounds because they hadn’t gone out in a while. All the customers were great and kept us on their toes.
«It was a busy weekend, but while it could have been crowded anyway, we went from zero to 100 mph in such a short time.»
Despite a busy weekend in banks, many adhered to health regulations by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
Mr. McAllister said his clients are «very good» at following the rules and signs.
«We are used to following different directions now,» he added.
«People just want to go out and see their friends and family.»
Inland hospitality resumed in bars, cafes and restaurants in Northern Ireland on Monday last week.
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