People saw St Helens town centre "come back to life" as a number of shops, pubs, barbers, hairdressers and more reopened across the town.

Determined to make up for lost time and support businesses they love and have missed, customers flocked to St Helens town centre as a new phase of lockdown easing begun from today.

'Non essential' shops are now allowed to reopen, as well as pubs, restaurants and cafes, albeit for outdoor service only.

The ECHO visited St Helens town centre to see the atmosphere and speak to businesses in the area who have been allowed to reopen their doors for the first time in months.

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"Customers are really appreciative"

Tiffany White, licensee for Craft Union, outside Brasserie Chalon on Barrow Street, St Helens
Tiffany said "she couldn't ask for better customers"

Tiffany White, licensee for Craft Union, said she "couldn't ask for better customers" at Brasserie Chalon on Barrow Street.

She told the ECHO: "It's been exciting. We were a bit apprehensive because we didn't know how it was going to go.

"We were just trying to manage everything but it's going well so far and we're getting new customers in so that's a good thing.

"Its's just nice that the town centre is back to being buzzing again.

"But even seeing people sitting outside the coffee shops, it's just nice that the life has come back to the town centre."

Tiffany said the team have been working hard to set up their beer garden and settling into a new routine.

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She said her hopes for the next few weeks are to see more people - old and new customers - and to get the business "back to the way it was."

Tiffany said: "We've just had our beer garden done up so customers are really appreciative that they've got somewhere nice to sit, that it is all covid safe.

"People are signing in and using the NHS track and trace app and are listening to what they need to do and they're following the rules.

"It's a lovely pub, it's a traditional local town centre pub. I couldn't ask for better customers.

Beer Garden at Brasserie Chalon on Barrow Street, St Helens
Tiffany said she's missed seeing all their loyal customers

"A lot of people are isolated and this is part of their routine where they get other adult interaction. We have a lot of older clients so it's nice to have everyone back and see them again. It's lovely and I've missed everyone."

Outside, customers John and Ste, who arrived at the pub mid-morning, said they enjoy going for drinks around the town centre and are glad to be back "with old friends" as many loyal customers come to Brasserie Chalon.

John said: "It's great to see everyone again, every one of them.

"It's brilliant, the sun is shining and I've got my first pint.

"I like going to all the different places in St Helens and seeing my mates. It's like being back with old friends. It's nice to get back to reality."

"I think everyone's just glad they're getting their hair cut"

Sam Edwards, area manager for Barbers No1 on Bridge Street, St Helens
Sam said the business is fully booked all week

Sam Edwards, area manager for Barbers No1 on Bridge Street, said the business has received a great response since reopening earlier today and is "fully-booked" for the rest of the week.

He told the ECHO: "Reopening has been structured with appointments and we've been fine to be honest.

"We're fully booked all week but it's been good to be back.

"The atmosphere has been good in the town centre. It's good to see some life and see some people walking round and things hopefully getting back to normal."

Barbers No1 on Bridge Street, St Helens
Everyone at the barbers were "glad" to finally be getting a haircut

Sam said the best part about re-opening today has been seeing customers return and catching up with them.

Sam said: "I think everyone's just glad they're getting their hair cut and they are relieved.

"I was a bit anxious waiting for it all and to get back in in case they locked us back down again, but we're happy we're back.

"I hope it's maintained, it stays open and this is the end of it now."

"We love serving this town"

Vicky and Eddie Dean, outside Smokehouse by The Dean in St Helens
The couple said "they love serving St Helens town"

Eddie and Vicky Dean saw the potential of Barrow Street in the town when they opened their fine dining restaurant, The Dean, in March 2019.

Since then the couple have set up a second business on the street called Smoke House by The Dean, which welcomed customers to dine outside for the first time today.

Owner and executive chef Eddie said: "We've had a lot of people pass us by wishing us the best of luck, lots of messages through social media wishing us the best of luck and generally a lot of people asking for a copy of the menu and asking 'do you sell wine?'

"We opened the dean two years ago which is a fine dining restaurant and that's pretty established now and then we always had aspirations for further concepts in this street, so for two years we've been working with the council and finally got this pedestrianised now from noon on a Friday till 9pm Sunday night.

"We then took over this unit in August last year and we were about to start work when we hit the lockdown in November and after Christmas we decided it's time to move now.

"It was a café before, so there was a footprint and we completely ripped it down to the skeleton and rebuilt it."

Outside Smokehouse by The Dean in St Helens
Outside Smokehouse by The Dean also has blankets so customers can wrap up

Eddie said the Smokehouse serves a variety of BBQ food and all recipes and sauces, such as their delicious Alabama sauce, is a "closely guarded secret."

He said the business is also dog friendly and that he is most excited for the weekend when both businesses can open outside simultaneously.

Eddie said: "It's the weekend I'm looking forward to, having both sides of the street, having it pedestrianised.

"To see it all outside, with the heaters which are coming, it's going to be an absolute pleasure.

"We love serving this town and when someone new comes and dines with us the first thing they say is 'why have you opened in St Helens?' The answer is 'why not?'

"We've got a lot of local people here now whereas in the past it was more from Liverpool. Where else in St Helens can you get a glass of wine and something nice to eat in the afternoon - you can now.

"People are taking it seriously"

Inside Bambinos on Bridge Street, St Helens
It was Bambinos first day opening in the town centre

For owner Nicola Jones, today wasn't about 're-opening,' as it was the first official day opening her new business, Bambinos, in the town centre.

Nicola, who also runs Bambinos Boutique Liverpool based in St John's Market, said she is happy to be expanding the business in St Helens, where she already has a loyal customer base and that she thinks now is the right time for businesses to be back open.

Nicola said: "I've had this place since October and I couldn't open in December, so I thought I'd leave it till the lockdown is lifted, so everyone is out and can have a nose properly. We do click and collect and deliveries from the shop as well.

"You see people doing the social distancing of course with masks and stuff like that, so people are taking it seriously as well.

Inside Bambinos on Bridge Street, St Helens
Owner Nicola said the response so far has been great

Bambinos sells babywear, accessories, dolls prams and more and Nicola said working at home during the lockdown was challenging but that she is happy to finally be open.

She said: "Having clothes in your house is really difficult with kids running around as well and getting it packed and posted is a nightmare, but you've got to get through it there was nothing we could do about it/

"The response was really good on social media as well and a lot of people know you really well from word of mouth. Business is really good so I'm really happy with everything."