SINCE being allowed to reopen last summer, following the end of the first lockdown, the hospitality industry has had to operate under a strict regime, only allowing table service, implementing social distancing, and the wearing of face masks when not seated.

That all changed yesterday as the country entered so-called ‘Freedom Day’ after Sajid Javid confirmed last week that the final stage of the government’s roadmap could go ahead.

Pubs across Oxford welcomed in the changes while urging on the side of caution.

Joe Davies, who runs the Fir Tree on Iffley Road, had to close his pub for the whole of last year – the smaller interior and lack of garden space meant it was not viable to comply with Government restrictions.

Now the pub is open though, and Mr Davies said it will be good to have people back inside the haunt for good.

He said: “We will encourage people to wear masks if they want to, we are going to have seating at the bar, but a little bit away so they are not too close to our staff, and when people are ordering at the bar we are going to ask them to stand back.

“We have relaxed things and at this point people are going to make their own decisions – if you are not comfortable you do not have to be inside, you can sit outside.

“But a lot of customers I have spoken to are looking forward to sitting down and being able to have a chat with who they want to in the pub.”

Nightclubs and mass events are also able to open for the first time since the pandemic began over 16 months ago.

Pubs are opting to keep some rules in place – mostly to keep their staff safe as cases still remain high across the country.

Tom Reynolds who owns The Library on Cowley Road said: “We will still be doing table service and our staff will continue to wear masks – but we won’t kick anyone out for not having one either.

“The most important thing is everyone will feel safe here.

“We will still allow people to scan in if they want to – but we will not enforce it as it’s not a law anymore.”

The easing of restrictions comes at a time when students are usually away from the city, as term time is over.

‘Freedom Day’ is said to have attracted students back from their hometowns to enjoy their first night out in over a year.

Jonathan Corp, who owns the new bar JoJo's on the Cowley Road said:“We are a relatively small venue and so we don’t think there will be much change – it definitely won’t have a massive impact on us.

“Although word on the street is that students are coming back from all over to celebrate Oxford’s Freedom Day – and apparently, one student told me, JoJo’s is the place for pre-drinks before heading to the nightclub.”