With a year of lockdown having passed yesterday, Andover’s businesses are looking forward to a time when they can reopen.

Currently, under the lockdown roadmap announced by the government, non-essential retail can reopen from April 12, with venues such as pubs allowed to serve customers outside. From May 17, indoor hospitality can return, while the rule of six will begin to apply indoors.

From June 21, it is then aimed that all other businesses, including nightclubs, will return, with the removal of the last restrictions on social distancing if everything goes according to plan.

Andover’s businesses have taken the opportunity to look back at their time in lockdown, and how things have fared. Kelly Jones, from Canto Gelato, said that her businesses was well-placed to adapt to the rules.

“We have a good following on social media,” she said. “We reopened for take away and deliveries in February, which has been good. Considering it was all new, especially the delivery side of things, I think it’s gone well.”

Others, such as pubs, were less able to be flexible due to the more stringent rules, as Tim Abram from Andover Tap discusses.

“It was bad, to say the least,” he said. “Even the periods when we could open because of the restrictions on numbers we can’t really make any money on that.

He continued: “On the whole, I think it’s been very difficult for any landlord. The government has gone some way to help but generally it’s not been easy. To be honest, the restrictions are there for a good reason and I think it was generally mishandled during the opening last time around where they opened too much too soon.

“It possibly could have been better sooner had they not opened quite so quickly.”

Businesses have relied on support from organisations including national government, Test Valley Borough Council, and more local groups such as Andover BID. The manager of the latter, Steve Godwin, said it had been an “incredibly stressful” year.

“Everyone has suffered because of this pandemic and it has been incredibly stressful for all of us,” he said. “Businesses in particular have had to adapt and adapt quickly. The high street has been a changing environment for years but in the last year, with many businesses being forced to close their doors completely, they have either disappeared as we all heard nationally or they have had to adapt their business models quickly to meet the changing consumer habits.”

He said BID had helped support businesses through the lockdown, and that the town was well placed to recover from the pandemic.

“Throughout this lockdown and during the year,” he said, “Andover BID has worked with its Town Centre businesses providing a package of help and support tailored in many different ways according to the type, the size and the sector of the business.

“Andover town centre has many advantages over neighbouring towns and cities in as much as it has a wide pedestrianised centre with plenty of easy, accessible and low cost car parking; it is easily accessible and therefore well placed for the revival of the high street as it happens.

“Many businesses, although concerned about the future, have used the time wisely to adapt and in some cases remodel their businesses, they nearly all have an on-line presence and can offer and are therefore quietly confident of the future when we hope that as people return and gain confidence again, they will support local.”

One recent innovation is the opening of a shared business space in the Chantry Centre, which Tim has taken advantage of while the Andover Tap has to remain closed.

“We’re still doing home deliveries but we’re not going to be able to open until May now, simply because we don’t have any outside space,” he said.

“We’ve got lots of plans for reopening. From April 17, we’re going to be taking up some of the space in the shared shop in the Chantry Centre so at least we’ll have decent bottled craft beer and a local offering in Andover you can do proper takeaways from.”

From May 17, he plans to reopen, and he’s also launched an innovative mobile bar service to provide Andover craft beers and ales to outdoor events.

Canto Gelato is also planning to reopen, with outdoor seating from April 12 and then a full reopening from May 17. Kelly says the pandemic has opened her and her husband’s eyes.

“It has taught us a lot,” she said, “not just about business but also from the support that we have received locally. We have plans for the future and we will continue to work alongside charities and schools.”

For more information on the reopening of businesses, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021/covid-19-response-spring-2021-summary