ONE of York's biggest beer gardens opens this afternoon in a hotel's grounds as Thor's tipi bar returns.

The bar's summer operation, dubbed SOL AST, opens at 4pm today and will then trade from 11.30am to 11pm every day in the Principal York Hotel's gardens until September 6.

Organiser Maria Farrugia says a larger, ‘socially distant’ layout will be in operation, with a brand-new table service system. "We’re an outdoor venue, which means we’re already low risk and that will give reassurances to all our customers," she said.

She said customers will be able to pre-order and pre-pay using a mobile phone, reducing contact - although walk-ins will also be welcomed -and tables are being kept apart in line with social distancing measures and free hand sanitiser will be offered.

By good fortune, the opening coincides with a major improvement in York's weather, with sunshine expected this weekend and next week.