In pictures: Sunshine, smiles and a freshly poured pint - the day Kenilworth's businesses reopened

There was a welcome sense of optimism as non essential and outdoor hospitality businesses reopened for the first time in months

Today (April 12) marked a significant day in the easing of lockdown restrictions, with many businesses reopening. Editor Phil Hibble spent time in the town to witness people pouring back into the shops, barbers, pubs and restaurants. Here are his observations.

Sunshine, smiles and a freshly poured pint. Today was a milestone moment in our recovery from the pandemic as non essential shops and the hospitality sector reopened their doors in Kenilworth

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Masks and social distancing are still the order of the day but there was no disguising the optimism in air. And why not? Many business have had endured lockdown after lockdown, losing thousands of pounds in the process.

Enjoying a drink in the sunshine outside Costa.

But that was far from our minds today, amid the sight of busy cafes with people filling outdoor tables and enjoying the sunshine.

Busy shopkeepers gave a thumbs up when asked how things were going and shoppers all agreed that a feeling of optimism had returned.

The hairdressers seemed the busiest of them all. The queue outside The Barber Shop in Warwick Road showed how keen people were to get their DIY haircuts turned into something more presentable.

There was laughter as old friends caught up for a coffee in Talisman square. And around the clock tower, staff at Forrest Coffee House, The Almanack and the Clock Tower Cafe greeted customers with smiles and gratitude.

Enjoying a drink in the sunshine outside Forrest Coffee House.

Staff at Chesford Grange Hotel between Leamington and Kenilworth said there was air of excitement when they served their their first drink in the sunshine this morning, as part of their outdoor dining area.

And that feeling has been shared by our pubs across the area. The hospitality sector is in desperate need of a lift after a tough 12 months - and today was the glimmer of hope many had needed.

The tourism industry know all about tough times. Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe has been closed for eight of the last 12 months, costing owners Jo Carroll and Steve Taylor hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost business.

Now the couple say they hope a surge in ‘staycationers’ will help them bounce back from the latest in a series of lockdowns.

Enjoying a drink in the sunshine in Talisman square.

Jo said: “Consumer confidence is high and we have massive surges of bookings whenever there is a Government announcement, giving people a light at the end of a very long tunnel.

“We are anticipating a very busy summer, with July and August pretty much fully booked. We feel quietly confident about reopening on Monday – although we still have a myriad of restrictions in place, which make trading difficult."

To mark their reopening today, the first returning guests were treated to a rendition by Leamington’s Royal Spa Brass Band at midday as well as refreshments, including cup cakes, courtesy of White Hyacinth Cake Design in Whatcote.

It was the perfect welcome on a day when people across the country were smiling again.

Diners return to The Almanack.
Shoppers enjoy the sunshine in Kenilworth.
The queue outside The Barber Shop in Warwick Road.
The excited staff at Chesford Grange Hotel.
The first coffee served at Chesford Grange Hotel.
Leamington’s Royal Spa Brass Band greeted the first customers at Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe.