The launch of the major new scheme to support cafes and restaurants has been hailed as an important step forward by Cumbrian businesses.

Yesterday saw the launch of the Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, which will slash the prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August by 50 per cent, up to the value of £10.

Hundreds of businesses across Cumbria have got involved in the scheme, with nearly 20 venues getting on board in Whitehaven and another 20 signing up in Workington, and nearly 40 joining in the Penrith area alone.

Nearly 70 venues have signed up in the Carlisle area, with most of them being small, independent cafes or restaurants.

One of these venues is the I Love Cafe, in Kinmont Arcade off Fisher Street, run by Charlotte Birkett alongside her mum Kerry.

Yesterday was the first day of returning to sit-down service for the I Love Cafe, something Charlotte said was an exciting – and welcome – step towards returning to normality.

She said it was fantastic to see regulars, as well as new faces, pay a visit to the cafe.

“We had the chance to connect with a lot of people during lockdown via Facebook and Instagram, I think that might have helped introduce us to new people,” Charlotte said.

“And we’ve been providing takeaway options in recent weeks as well, which I think has also helped.”

Charlotte said she felt certain the “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme would provide a major boost to the sector in the coming weeks.

“Even myself and my friends, we’re saying to each other at the moment that we have to eat out now it’s half price.

“I definitely think a lot of people will agree it’s a very good deal.

“It’s exactly what businesses need at the moment, especially smaller, independent businesses.”

James Hill runs The Quarter Lounge, another participating business, in nearby Treasury Court, alongside the Lounge on the Green in Houghton.

He said the “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme will provide a major benefit to cafes and restaurants in the coming weeks, especially as it is designed to encourage trade in the earlier half of the week, when business has in recent weeks been quieter than it was at the same point last year.

James added that he feels the scheme is real recognition from the Government of the true value of the sector.

“I feel like for the first time, we’ve really been looked at as a really important sector in terms of jobs and our contribution to the economy,” he said.

“And we are – we employ a massive proportion of the country.”