Midhurst and Petworth pubs tell of delight as they welcome customers back indoors

Midhurst and Petworth pubs have spoken about their delight at being able to welcome customers back inside their venues today (Monday, May 17).

Monday, 17th May 2021, 1:07 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 1:08 pm

Pubs in Midhurst and Petworth and surrounding villages have today welcomed customers back indoors for the first time in months.

Lockdown restrictions which have been eased today include the hospitality sector being able to bring customers back indoors,with the rule of six prevailing, and more for groups from two households.

Manager Gemma McNally and head chef Mark White have been installed at The Star in Market Square, Petworth.

Manager Gemma McNally and head chef Mark White
Manager Gemma McNally and head chef Mark White

Gemma says she 'couldn't wait' to help breathe life into Petworth following one report that stated that almost 10,000 licensed premises — including pubs, clubs and restaurants — closed permanently in 2020 as the coronavirus crisis hammered the hospitality sector.

She said: "We're so looking forward to opening up again and welcoming people indoors to drink and eat with us. It’s a real bonus to be working with Mark who is a fantastic chef and we’re very lucky to have him in the team.

"We believe opening our doors once more will certainly help with the overall vibe. Like many, many places Petworth has been very low key and subdued for obvious reasons.

"The key to a vibrant local community can be the pub and if The Star had failed to open again after lockdown it would have been heart-breaking. We would like to think that being open as near normal as possible will add confidence and a new sense of freedom to our businesses and townsfolk."

The team at the Blue Bell

To celebrate the next chapter at The Star, head chef Mark prepared a new menu that he feels will 'capture a fresh mood of optimism'.

He said: "I wanted to create something special to herald the return of diners indoors and firmly believe that this has been achieved. I'm confident that our customers will be thrilled by what is on offer and can’t wait to see them satisfied!”

The Blue Bell at Cocking, the first community owned pub in the South Downs National Park, has also reopened, with some new faces in the team.

The kitchen is now led by Dorothy Gleeson, who has a wealth of experience running restaurants at different locations here in the UK and in France, she will be supported by our apprentice Alex McGrath and her mother Sharon, who has worked in a number of local venues and ran her own village pub in a previous life.

Steve Hodges continues to manage the business and has a renewed front of house team of friendly local staff.

Steve joined in July 2020 but, due to the pandemic, has yet to see the Blue Bell operating 'normally' with customers able to come and order a drink directly from the bar.

During lockdown the team have been busy, refreshing the interior and gardens, and updating the website and image with a modern simplified new look.

The B and B rooms are also open for guests today (Monday, May 17) and the substantial level of forward bookings is testament to the popularity of ‘staycations' this year, with walkers, cyclists and tourists keen to visit our beautiful corner of Sussex, without having to worry about 'traffic lights' and quarantine regulations.

To celebrate being able to open the doors again and to welcome customers back, the Blue Bell is offering a promotional three course lunch menu for just £15 – drop in and try it!

It is advisable to book, and the usual tables of six, or two households, and Covid regulations remains in force for the time being.

Steve Hodges, manager of the Blue Bell, said: "We are delighted to be re-opening at last, and, with a new chef in our team we have some great new food ideas to share with our customers”