LOCAL landlords are chomping at the bit to welcome back their regular punters after being forced to shut their doors for three months.

But pub owners in Chard and Ilminster have admitted they are worried about the risks of customers returning.

Alistair Hughes, landlord of The Dolphin in Ilminster, said: “My excitement and relief at being able to open our doors from July 4 is tinged with slight apprehension concerning the amount of people who will start using the pub.

“Too many makes it hard to monitor everybody’s need to observe social distancing. Too few and it will be difficult to cover our costs. But overall I feel positive about opening up again.”

All UK pubs were shut to the public on March 20, following an announcement from Boris Johnson. More than three months on they have the green light to reopen this weekend, but with new rules in place.

Alistair added: “We will be opening in compliance with government guidelines as much as we possibly can.

“One entrance one exit, no more then two households sharing the same table.

“Table service indoors, to the best of our ability, and one person at the bar at a time when ordering drinks to take to the outside area.”

The pub, in Silver Street, will also have perspex screens between bar staff and customers, and no congregating or seating at the bar.

There will be a hand sanitising station at the entrance, face masks are to be worn if visiting the toilet, and social distance markings will be placed on the floor.

“I’m hoping that people will use their common sense with social distancing but will be doing the best I can to ensure everyone is doing so,” Alistair said.

“The past three months has been okay but increasingly worrying with standard overheads and costs still going out with nothing coming in.

“But we have got through it and are looking forward to opening up again and hopefully at least breaking even on costs until we get through this pandemic.”

Steve Jones is a co-owner of the Phoenix Hotel in Fore Street, Chard.

He will also be opening his doors once more on July 4 in line with government guidelines.

He said: “A lot of the details on how we will trade are still in the planning stage.

“I think the main thing to note is that people abide by all distancing laws to stop as much as possible the spread of Covid-19 and we will do our part to see this happens.

“I know it is unprecedented times but as a business owner Graham and myself welcome the fact we can open.

“We both have more than 20 years’ hard work in The Phoenix and it has over half of both our working lives invested.

“Staying closed would have put that in real jeopardy.”

Earlier this week, Number 10 rejected concerns about the easing of England’s lockdown - including the reopening of pubs - taking place on a Saturday.

The PM’s official spokesman said: “We are trusting the public to comply with the new social distancing rules. Businesses will only be able to reopen if they follow the Covid secure guidelines.”

The July 4 date had been “very clearly signposted” in the coronavirus road map published in May, the spokesman added.