Following the Government's announcement that pubs, cafes and restaurants could reopen on July 4, those that make up Carlisle's food and drinks sector were faced with a difficult decision.

While establishments like The Old Bank, on Fisher Street in the city centre are allowed to open on Saturday, for the pub and restaurant's owner Matt Rayson, Saturday was too early.

"It was a difficult decision to make. We're erring on the side of caution," he said.

"We would love to open, but the welfare of staff and customers obviously has to come first."

While The Old Bank is now taking bookings over the telephone, it is not planning to reopen until August 5, in order to ensure the venue is as safe as possible for both customers and staff.

"We're going to spread out our tables. We've gone from about 15 tables in the main restaurant down to about seven," Matt explained.

"We've got hand sanitizer points at the front door and at each table. We've got single-use menus as well, and we're not leaving condiments or cutlery on the tables - everything's being brought out."

He said there will have to be quite a few changes in the way The Old Bank operates for the foreseeable future.

"We normally have live singers, but obviously that's been knocked on the head for the time being," he said.

"We also normally hire out to private events, again we can't do that."

Some of the newly-released Government guidelines published in advance of the July 4 reopening date have surprised Matt.

"A new one for me was that we've got to keep the music quite low, because you don't want people having a drink and then starting to sing at the top of their voice, because apparently that could potentially spread it," he said.

Alongside Matt's keenness to ensure everything is made as safe as possible, he is also understandably cautious about the financial uncertainties reopening would bring.

"It's so unknown at the moment what trade is going to be like, I would hate to jump in and then find it to be really quiet, and end up in a situation where things are getting a bit exhausted, finances-wise," Matt said.

"I'd rather leave it an extra month and see how things go. Hopefully, at the start of August everyone will be in a better place."

He said that he was most glad of the Government's furlough scheme, without which he would not have been able to keep on his staff.

"I've got to say, I think the Government's furlough scheme has been excellent", he said. "We're very lucky that's been running."

Matt said being a business owner throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been a taxing experience.

"I've been very on edge constantly. I've probably watched the news more than I ever have in my life," he said.

However, he has been trying to keep his mind off his worries by focusing on refurbishing The Old Bank, as well as converting its cellar into a brand new private function venue, The Print Room, which will offer private dining for up to 10 people.

For Matt, the Covid-19 outbreak has brought home to him just how important it is to make sure local businesses are given the support they need.

"It's so important to get behind your local independent traders, whether that's food, retail or anything else," he said.

"I know shop owners that are desperate for business right now.

"As local businesses, we don't have millions of pounds at our disposal. We cannot be here without our customers.

"It's important we get behind them. People would miss the local businesses we have in Carlisle if they were no longer here."

While he stressed it was impossible right now to be certain, Matt said he believed there will be a demand for the services of pubs and restaurants when they reopen.

"I think there will be a demand, I think people do want to get out.

"But whether that keeps going, all I can say is I hope that it does."