THERE was plenty to celebrate this week as beer gardens, non-essential shops and leisure centres across Renfrewshire reopened after months of lockdown.

Many people have been flocking to pubs where alcohol can be served outside, to enjoy drinks and meals again with family and friends.

Among those to welcome back customers was Kilbarchan’s Habbies Bar and Grill, where there was no shortage of people who were keen to raise their glasses.

Fraser Campbell, manager of the New Street pub, told The Gazette: “I’m thankful that, at long last, we can reopen. It’s been a long time coming.

“Pubs really are the hub of the community, especially at Habbies, where we have an eclectic mix of people.

“We often have the grannies and the grandpas drinking in the same pub as the grandchildren at times. We’re a very family-orientated pub.

“I feel for a lot of chaps in the village where it really is a lifeline, as it’s sometimes the only point of contact for people their own age.

“We’re very hopeful that, this summer, we get a lot of support from the local community, just like we did last year.”

The Gazette: Fraser CampbellFraser Campbell

Customer Andrew Mckenna said: “You don’t get the same atmosphere in the house or even out in the garden as you get in a pub.

“As they say, you don’t realise how much you miss something until you don’t have it.”

Mark Gordon, who was celebrating his 56th birthday in the beer garden, was overjoyed to be reunited with his loved ones.

He said: “The pubs opening on my birthday feels like it’s meant to be.

“I’ve waited so long it doesn’t seem real. This is the first time we’ve all been together for I don’t know how long.”

Stuart Bell, who was enjoying a pint with his dog Jenson, added: “I have saved a lot of money while the pubs were closed but it’s good to see everyone out again.”

The Gazette: Mark Gordon (standing) was celebrating his 56th birthday with loved ones in the beer garden at Habbies Bar and GrillMark Gordon (standing) was celebrating his 56th birthday with loved ones in the beer garden at Habbies Bar and Grill

Elsewhere, customers were also returning to the Spateston Inn, in Johnstone, where licensee Christine Knox was thrilled to open the doors again.

She said: “The response from our customers has been phenomenal. I don’t think it’s all about the drink, it’s the fact everyone wants to get out the house and see each other again.

“My hope for the summer is that we’re back to reality and we’re allowed our live music, which is what the community want.”

Groups of six people from up to six different households are now allowed to socialise outdoors.

Hospitality can stay open until 8pm indoors and 10pm outdoors but it will be May 17 before pubs and restaurants are able to sell booze indoors again. This will be allowed until 10.30pm, in two-hour time slots.

The Gazette: Christine Knox, manager at The Spateston Inn, was delighted to welcome back customersChristine Knox, manager at The Spateston Inn, was delighted to welcome back customers

Retailers were also breathing a sigh of relief this week as they welcomed back customers, with another step towards recovery for an industry left badly damaged by the pandemic.

Friends Danielle Sartrain and Sarah Douglas were up at the crack of dawn to be at the head of the queue at Braehead shopping centre when it reopened on Monday.

They were waiting more than an hour for the Renfrew centre’s Primark store to open its doors at 7am.

Danielle, 31, said: “This is really quite exciting and the feeling is like being a child at Christmas.”

Both Danielle and Sarah work at Glasgow Airport and haven’t seen as much of each other during lockdown as they usually do.

“As well as coming to Braehead for shopping, it’s also a bit of a social catch-up for us,’ said 25-year-old Sarah. “We haven’t been at work together for a while, so we thought we’d meet up here.”

The two friends also wanted to make sure they were first in the queue at Primark, as hundreds of customers waited outside the store before opening time.

And, after more than an hour of bargain hunting, they emerged with bulging shopping bags.

The Gazette: Stuart Bell was joined by his dog Jenson as he enjoyed a pint at Habbies Bar and GrillStuart Bell was joined by his dog Jenson as he enjoyed a pint at Habbies Bar and Grill

Peter Beagley, director of Braehead shopping centre, said: “You could see the joy on the faces of our visitors after they were able to get back to shopping and feel a sense of some sort of normality.

“We had a steady flow of shoppers throughout the day and we were very pleased with how things went.

“People seem to accept the measures we have put in place and appreciate that, if we follow government guidelines, we can all enjoy the shopping experience, as well as our many cafes and restaurants.”

Bosses at Renfrewshire Leisure have also told of their delight after they welcomed visitors back to gyms, swimming pools and libraries for the first time in months.

Venues such as the Johnstone Community Sports Hub that had been closed due to lockdown restrictions were able to reopen on Monday.

The Gazette: Happy customers at the Spateston InnHappy customers at the Spateston Inn

Gyms, leisure centres and pools can now host individual exercise, in line with public health guidelines.

All organised activities that take place outdoors have also resumed, with the exception of contact sports for adults.

Victoria Hollows, Renfrewshire Leisure chief executive, said: “We are excited to welcome back our loyal members and residents to our venues.

“We know how keen people are to return and enjoy more of our services.

“In so many ways, the work we do has never been needed more. Encouraging and supporting better health and wellbeing is going to be vital for people as they recover from the impact of Covid-19 on their lives.”