For the owners of Môr, a fine dining restaurant in Mumbles, Swansea, the public park opposite has provided a golden opportunity for socially distanced outdoor dining. Môr’s directors negotiated with Swansea Council to bring in a scheme where local businesses could lease Southend Gardens for business use.
This is particularly valuable for Môr because it is a very small restaurant with just 30 covers inside. While opening this space is currently impractical, the gardens offer an appealing al fresco alternative.
“Having use of Southend Gardens has benefitted us and other local eateries and drinking places,” says Kirsten Heaven, one of Môr’s directors. “In the longer term we will look at ways to make the gardens comfortable in the colder months.”
Remarkably, Môr’s directors also chose to launch a new restaurant at the start of August, despite the challenges of Covid-19. Located just down the road from Môr, Elwyn is a larger fine dining restaurant that, like Môr, aims to raise the bar for dining in the area.
“The idea of Elwyn is to have visiting chefs – Michelin star level chefs will come and do residencies,” says Kirsten. “We’ll also employ younger chefs who can work with them, giving them an opportunity to learn through apprenticeship and creating local employment.”
Elwyn also uses Southend Gardens for outdoor dining but its larger capacity makes dining indoors an option too. At Môr, the plan is to open the inside dining area to family groups. In the meantime, fine dining in Southend Gardens is proving a big hit with its customers.
Also faring well in the wake of Covid-19 is Cattle & Co, a smokehouse and café in Clydach, Swansea, which recently reopened following a five-month lockdown closure. Keen to ensure staff and customers are safe, owner Rebecca Mace has introduced a host of special measures.
“We’re very lucky to have two entrances, which has enabled us to introduce a one-way system,” she says. “As they come to door customers are asked to wait to be seated – we have stickers on the floor for to show where to wait. Our staff wear PPE and we have arranged the tables so they are all back to back, not side by side or facing. We’ve also removed four tables to create distance between them.”
Rachel has also introduced new till systems that enable staff to take orders with iPads – and she will soon also have QR codes on tables that enable customers to order via their phones.
“We’ve ramped up our cleaning so our toilets are cleaned every half hour and our tables and chairs are thoroughly cleaned after each customer,” says Rebecca. “We have no condiments or knives and forks left on the tables and our menus are wipeable. If we have a meal deal printed on paper, that gets thrown away after each use.”
Rebecca has been delighted to receive a flood of bookings, putting her business back on track after a trying time.
“It’s really good to be back open,” she says. “We were very nervous – there is that worry about whether customers are going to come back, but we’ve done a lot on social media to tell people about the steps we have taken to protect customers and staff and the response has been really good. There are days when it doesn’t feel any different from how it was before we closed – and we’re seeing a lot of new customers. The most important thing is we know we are doing everything we should be doing and the customers are happy.”
It’s not just eating places that have adapted: GS Artists, a gallery on Swansea’s High Street, has reopened its doors with a series of arts workshops.
Organised with the gallery’s 9to90 Creative Community and in consultation with Esther Ley, arts coordinator at homelessness charity Crisis, the FREE ART SHOP workshops run from August to October. They include opportunities to work in a range of media and styles, including collage, lino cutting, collage, movement, and portraiture.
The workshops will be available online, but the reopening of the physical gallery has created the option for people to work with artists in the gallery, with strict protective measures in place.
“We’ve all been on a Covid-19 health and safety course and have measured out the gallery space to enable social distancing,” says gallery director Jane Simpson. “We have free masks and visors for any visitors, and free vouchers for coffee, tea and refreshments from a local café to take away any worry to do with providing those.
“We have three workspaces, each suitable for two people from same household or family. You can book via Eventbrite. Our priority is to ensure that people feel safe and that we feel safe – we don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy.”
As Covid-19 looks set to have a long-running influence on people’s daily lives, it’s clear that these types of precautions will become a long-running feature of caring businesses. Thanks to them, we can eat, drink and play with confidence.