HUNDREDS of businesses have reopened for the first time this year as the country takes another step towards life after Covid.

Hairdressers, pubs and gyms have reopened, and non-essential retailers are allowed to welcome customers through their doors once again.

Shoppers and business owners alike were thrilled to have the chance do all the things they have missed out on over the past few months.

The Argus: Linda Johnson, owner of Beretun Designs in Bond StreetLinda Johnson, owner of Beretun Designs in Bond Street

Linda Johnson, owner of the independent boutique Beretun Designs in Bond Street, Brighton said she was “hopeful” that people would return to the high street and support small business.

She told The Argus: “I’ve had a nervous stomach for the last three weeks wondering if customers will come back.

“I started my business 30 years ago and I’ve been really poor because I’ve moved to different places and had various different shops, but this is the worst it’s ever been.”

The boutique specialises in occasion dresses and Linda said that with many events being cancelled, including weddings, her business has suffered as a consequence.

Linda said: “We would never sell a dress online because they’re occasion dresses, and you aren’t going to buy a dress for your daughter’s wedding online for example.

The Argus: Emma Draper, owner of Velvet (Centre) serving customers at the Hove storeEmma Draper, owner of Velvet (Centre) serving customers at the Hove store

“We would normally sell 20 dresses a week, sometimes more depending on the season but we haven’t sold ten in a year.

“We have managed to get through it with the help from the government and our savings, but if it had gone on for another month, I don’t think we’d have survived.”

Emma Draper, owner of Velvet in Church Road, Hove, said she had a small queue of customers waiting to enter fashion and homeware shop when she opened at 9am on Monday.

“I was a bit nervous this morning, but it has all been very exciting, Emma said.

“All the customers have been just so pleased to see us and we are, of course, very pleased to see them.

“We have all the safety regulations in place from the last lockdown so for us the main thing was making sure the shop looked absolutely beautiful and inspiring.

“The reaction I’ve had this morning has been great – all the summer dresses have been flying out.”

The Argus: Sergio Ruano, managing director at Sergio PascalSergio Ruano, managing director at Sergio Pascal

Long-awaited hair appointments and beauty treatments also began today including at the Sergio Pascal salon in Trafalgar Street, Brighton.

Sergio Ruano, managing director at the salon, said: “We are fully booked for the next three to four weeks which has made me very happy, but it will be a lot of work, alongside making sure we stick to the rules but it’s very exciting.

“I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s lockdown hair. It will be a challenge, but we are happy to be open.”

The Argus: Philip Payne, landlord at the Waggon and HorsesPhilip Payne, landlord at the Waggon and Horses

Outdoor hospitality at pubs, restaurants and café has also reopened, with customers now able to enjoy a number of freedoms they have had to go without for months.

The Waggon and Horses in Church Street, Brighton has expanded its outdoor seating area and added heaters to make sure its customers can be served not matter the weather.

Philip Payne, landlord, said: “We’re quite lucky with the amount of outside space we we’ve got compared to the pub, which is the opposite to most places in town.

The Argus: Emily Lamb at 17 Grams cafe in BrightonEmily Lamb at 17 Grams cafe in Brighton

“We decided not to do bookings but the amount of phone calls we’ve had asking if we do bookings has given us an indication that we are going to be really, really busy.

“We got to the stage where we had to turn the phone off for a couple of weeks.

“We’re just doing everything we can to get back to normal and hopefully the weather is on our side.”

Emily Lamb, who works at 17 Grams cafe in Meeting House Lane, Brighton said she had missed “buzz” of serving customers.

She said: “The main reason people in hospitality sector do what they do is because they like meeting people.

“Obviously it’s very weather dependent at the moment – I can’t believe it was snowing this morning – but there will be lots of people who just want to get out regardless.

“I think when we get customers back inside on May 17, everything will once again start to ramp up.”

This latest step towards easing of restrictions is part of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The prime minister hopes to be able to lift the majority of rules by 21 June, but this is dependent on cases, deaths and hospital admissions continuing to fall.