'THERE is a buzz around town' as Bridport businesses prepare to reopen next week following three months of closure.

From this Monday, April 12, non-essential shops will be reopening, pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers outside, residents are able to go for that much-needed haircut, and gyms and leisure centres will also reopen.

All of these industries have been forced to closed since the start of the current lockdown in January. Now business owners throughout Bridport and the surrounding areas are raring to go ahead of Monday's phased reopening.

South Street Sally, a clothing store on South Street, opened its doors for the first time in mid-December. Around three weeks later, the country was plunged into lockdown and the shop had to closed its doors for three months.

Owner, Sally Townsend, said: “I am excited to get going.

"There's been a real buzz around the town over the past week or so. There’s an anticipation in the air around all the local shopkeepers – everyone is clearly looking forward to getting back to some sort of reality.

"We have masses of pre-loved clothes ready to go at 9am in the morning, all we need now is the sunshine."

Sally Ann Palmer, co-owner of Cilla and Camilla, said: "We are very much looking forward to reopening all the shops - again. We are excited to welcoming back all our lovely customers and to hopefully see lots of visitors this summer. We are excited to be opening a new cookshop in Bridport.

"Like everyone, we hope this will be the last time we have to close. We will of course be ensuring our staff and customers are kept safe as we operate within the Covid guidelines in all our shops."

Pubs, restaurants and bars will be able to reopen from Monday, but customers will have to be seated outside. The Half Moon in Melplash will open on Wednesday, April 14.

Landlady Clare Pimbley said: "We are looking forward to reopening but we’d certainly like the weather to be a little bit warmer than it has been this week. But we are looking forward to being a pub again being able to welcome everyone back in, see our customers and operate how we are supposed to.

"We’ve been busy over lockdown renovating the inside of the pub so we’re all set to reopen the venue in full in May."

Station Kitchen at West Bay will be opening for outdoor dining on Friday, April 16.

Co-owner Claire Moore said: "We’re all super excited to be planning our alfresco reopening.

"Our diary is starting to look very busy and we can not wait to start serving and doing what we do best. We even have a few small weddings at the station throughout May which will be lovely."

Steve Wheeler, who runs Steve's Barber Shop on East Street, is looking forward to welcoming members of the public back.

He said: “If it’s anything like it was after the first lockdown, it will be manic. We reopened on a Saturday and had people waiting outside from as early as 5.30am. I suppose at least this time we have an idea of what to expect.

“We are really looking forward to it again, we just hope it’s the last one and we don’t have to go through all this again.

“I don’t mind if it’s as busy as it was last time. It was manic, but it was exciting -everyone was very pleasant."

Bridport Leisure Centre has undergone renovations and will reopen the public on Monday.

Centre manager, William Thrower, said: "After a challenging three and a half months, we are very excited to reopen the leisure centre doors from Monday. We're looking forward to welcoming customers old and new back to the facility and we cannot wait to show you what improvements we have made during lockdown 3.0."

Robert Mühl, president of the Bridport Business Chamber, said: "Monday will be a big day for many businesses in Bridport which have had to close their doors during these unprecedented times. It will be a great relief to them that they can open up again.

“I have been so impressed by the way local traders have stepped up to the mark during the pandemic and come up with innovative ways to continue serving their customers.

“We wish good luck to all the businesses that are reopening and would like to remind proprietors that if they have any issues, Covid-related or otherwise, the Chamber is here to support them. You don’t have to be a member to get in touch.

“And to local residents and visitors, please do come and support our amazing local businesses. Remember, shopping local is for life - not just for lockdown."