PUNTERS raised a glass as a popular Greenock bar-restaurant re-opened its beer garden more than three months after the business was closed by the coronavirus.

Michael Frizzel and Symon Bleasdale, who run Nicolson's in Bruce Street, had been busy working hard behind the scenes to prepare for the day they and their regulars have been waiting for after lockdown measures began to be eased.

They have spent at least £2,000 sprucing up the premises, installing a marquee and introducing measures to ensure staff and customers are safe.

Michael says the whole lockdown experience has been very challenging.

He said: "For me personally, going from being extremely busy to nothing was very difficult.

"Then six weeks in it was like a spark ignited, and myself and Symon got back to work.

"We started doing takeaway orders and that worked really well.

"We were gearing up to open the beer garden at the start of phase two, then the First Minister delayed it.

"We were a bit disappointed at first but public health comes first for the sake of 16 days and the possibility of a second spike.

"I think the First Minister made the right choice.

"We are glad we were ready to go."

Michael says they had to complete risk assessments and have all the precautions in place.

Fortunately he has managed to keep on the majority of staff, apart from those who chose to leave, and a team of 11 will be coming back.

He said: "They are all split into different shifts and the guys are not allowed to travel to work in their work clothes.

"We have an area for them to get changed.

"Staff also have separate toilets from customers and will keep to separate roles."

A walk-through video has been made available online to show customers what to expect and traffic system directions have been laid on the floor, complete with 'give way' signs

It will be table service only and all menus have been removed.

Instead they are displayed on the walls of the beer garden and a separate table will be used to for the transfer of food and for customer payment.

As part of the new procedures customers must pre-book slots online for drinks and food.

Michael said: "It's the sensible way to do it - if we didn't then we would have a queue right down to the Telegraph office!"

Michael says he is delighted to see his customers and staff back and to return to some sort of normality.

Michael said: "It's a really positive stride.

"I predict a prolonged Indian-style summer.

"I think there will be a greater appreciation of the experience you get going into a nice bar or restaurant, getting the atmosphere.

"It nice to be surrounded by other strangers making noise."