"IT FEELS very emotional to be able to open," admits a York restaurateur whose popular venues are already booked up for the month.

Hospitality teams have been busy preparing for reopening from Monday when indoor settings such as restaurants and cafes are allowed to start operating again.

Oscar Akgul, behind York's successful Lucia Wine Bar & Grill and Cut & Craft brands, said he was optimistic about the future, and expects a 'boom summer' with busy custom from staycationers.

Oscar and his business partner Osman Dogan have invested significant sums into their restaurants, including an £800,000 refurbishment of Lucia York last year just before the nation was plunged into the first of three lockdowns.

Most recently, Lucia Harrogate has undergone a £600,000 transformation and is being relaunched at an invitation-only event on Monday ahead of welcoming back guests from next Tuesday.

York Press:

Lucia Harrogate's transformation is being unveiled at an exclusive event on Monday ahead of reopening.

The other Lucia and Cut & Craft restaurants, in York and Beverley, are reopening from Monday while work is underway on a new Cut & Craft in Leeds city centre which Oscar said was expected to launch at the end of October.

"There has been huge demand," said Oscar. "Most of the restaurants have been booked up for the month. Everyone is ready for it, and the response is amazing.

"We are very much looking forward to opening and welcoming our guests. It has been the longest time. This was the longest lockdown. It does feel very emotional to be able to open and hope there will be no further lockdowns.

"Cases are low and more people are being vaccinated. It is exciting to start the summer with fewer Covid issues and move forward."

Despite the challenges of the past year, Oscar said: "There are definitely good things that have happened - recognising what's important in life; and businesses realising how important it is to have a plan and prepare for emergencies."

With the hospitality sector coming back to life, Oscar said it was proving difficult to find staff for vacancies.

Having already replaced some staff who left during lockdown and further strengthened the teams, with 15 new employees at Lucia and Cut & Craft in York, Oscar added: "It is going to be a busy month. We need to hire extra employees but a lot of restaurants are now employing so there are not many people out there.

"We are expecting to have a busy summer. We think this year is going to be a boom for our sector definitely, and for the UK economy. I think good days are ahead.

"We are very excited to get back to normal.We will still continue with some of our processes - such as hand sanitiser and temperature checks in restaurants where it is very busy, cleaning during the day and setting tables apart as much as we can to give space to customers. We will be very cautious."