TWO-HOUR queues for Wetherspoons beer garden as pubs open – but chaos over outdoor seating rules

THIRSTY punters queued for TWO hours for a pint today as pubs reopened amid chaos over the new outdoor seating rule.

Wetherspoons' Imerial Pub in Exeter saw thirsty Brits waiting outside for an estimated two hours as they battled to get into the popular beer garden.

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The line could be seen snaking around the pub's entrance as youngsters waited patiently for their turn.

Meanwhile, more than 100 students queued for just 20 tables at The Friendship Inn in Fallowfield, Manchester after the drinking hole reopened at midday.

Up north, pals of six basked in the sunshine with a pint for the first time since restrictions loosened, while punters in Portsmouth wore their best rain hats to shield from downpours.

One man was caught sipping his beer straight from the tap as others raised a glass to the long-awaited occasion.

But there was some confusion as council killjoys shut outdoor seating areas amid chaos over the new rules.

Pubs are currently only allowed to serve outdoors with shelters, marquees, and other temporary structures needing half their walls open to count.

Councils have taken the guidelines differently though, with some landlords already forced to close just hours after they opened their doors.

While in Coventry, officials are probing the Oak Inn after more than 100 people gathered to enjoy a pint at midnight.

Pubs, gyms, salons and non-essential shops have opened for the first time in 114 days today as the Covid lockdown eases.

Keen punters were seen waiting patiently in line for pubs to open at midnight last night.

And shaggy-haired Brits also flocked to get their hair cut for the first time in months as salons reopened at midnight.

Pent-up demand will see £1.5billion — that’s £2.7million a minute — spent in venues and reopening attractions between 9am and 6pm.

Work leave requests for today are up almost 20 per cent.

It comes as

  • Boris Johnson urged Brits to behave responsibly as pubs reopened
  • Shoppers queued outside Primark to grab a bargain this morning
  • Brits flocked to get haircuts for the first time in months as salons reopened
  • Here is our ultimate guide to lockdown rules as they are eased today
  • Brits have been urged to raise a toast to Prince Philip following the Duke's death on Friday
  • Boris Johnson had his personal barber visit Downing Street this morning for a fresh trim

Some bosses will let work-from-home staff pop out for a bargain or beer.

BrightHR, which monitors annual leave at more than 10,000 workplaces, said: “It’s fair to say April 12 is the most requested day off in the last year excluding Christmas, Easter and summer holidays.”

More than a million will visit pubs, with eight million in shops and millions more making day trips.

In the next week, 24 million people — half of England’s adult population — will go drinking or shopping.

Gyms reopened from 6am today, with fitness fanatics pictured attending a strength and conditioning class at Ultimate Fitness Gym in Wallsend, North Tyneside.

Some Primark stores opened at 7am, with eager shoppers pictured queueing up outside.

Many cafes have also reopened from 8am.

The landlords of the Duke of Edinburgh pub have raised a toast to Prince Philip and urged the rest of England to do the same today as the country unlocks.

The unlocking comes 114 days since Boris Johnson announced Tier 4 restrictions that shut pubs and shops in the south, and 97 since the nationwide curfew on January 5.

And 20,000 pubs and 10,000 restaurants will serve outdoors to rule-of-six punters. Thousands more will offer takeaway drinks.

Boris Johnson urged the nation to "behave responsibly" as pubs reopened after months of lockdown.

"I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed," Mr Johnson said.

"I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember 'hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme."

In England, pubs and restaurants have been making changes during lockdown to maximise their ability to serve customers outside.

But the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that just 40 per cent of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

There will be no 10pm curfews and “substantial meal” barriers — but Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to stick to the rules on distancing and handwashing.

Some areas saw snow yesterday, and brewer Marston’s has kitted out some pubs such as The Manor House in Kinver, Staffs, with tepees to keep punters warm. Other pubs will offer hot-water bottles.

Among the first to open was the Kentish Belle in Bexleyheath, South East London, which served from a minute past midnight.

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