IT WAS a sense of returning to normal for a Whitchurch venue last weekend, with pubgoers heading out in their droves to enjoy some live music.

Percy's Cafe and Bar, in Watergate, has been closed since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.

Although pubs have been able to open and have been forced to close again since then, social distancing restrictions meant the venue has been forced to stay shut owing to its small size.

But with social distancing restrictions being effectively dropped this month, the venue has welcomed people back.

The bar held a VIP night on Thursday, before opening properly on Friday, with the first bands performing on Saturday night.

Bar owner, Mark Steptoe, said Saturday was 'like they had never closed'.

"It was absolutely great," said Mark.

"The night couldn't have gone better, it felt like it had never been closed.

"It was just fantastic, there were people I hadn't seen since lockdown."

Despite the success of the evening, Mark says getting back to normal did come with some hiccups.

"There were certain things I forgot about," added Mark.

"On the Thursday I had to go to the Eagles to get some change."

Although pubs have been given the green light to return to normal, Mark believes the shadow of Covid will linger for a while longer yet.

"Obviously we have to keep the sanitisers out, and there could be some issues in the future with ventilation in the winter as it could get pretty freezing out there," he added.

"It did seem like it had gone back to normal, but it's difficult.

"People have already forgotten about Covid, so I hope we can all stay safe."

Despite 'freedom weekend' signalling the end of social distancing restrictions, Mark says he will still do his best to keep bar-goers safe, but appreciates that it is a tall order.

"We've got the NHS app, we don't want to get rid of it as it's not fair, but I wouldn't blame other pubs if they did as one ping and you might have to shut down," added Mark

"This was the first weekend, freedom weekend as such and as a pub I don't have to do a thing if I don't want to, there are no restrictions.

"The only reason we closed in the first place was because you can't socially distance, but at one point on the Saturday we were rammed.

"Once the guidelines are gone it's too late.

"Without any guidelines you can't expect people to behave in a certain way, they're going to be singing and dancing."

Mark says that there were some reopening-night nerves, but despite all the concerns, the weekend was still a success.

"After so long it felt like we'd never been closed," added Mark.

"It was very nerve-wracking, as it's though you're going back to starting again.

"There are things to remember for next time, but it went exceptionally well.

"We hadn't slept for a couple of days we were that on edge.

"But it had gone back to normal in an instant.

"The crowd were great, very supportive.

"There are a lot of bands booked and so far things are looking really good."