PUBS and restaurants in Oldham are gearing up to welcome back customers as the 12-week coronavirus lockdown continues to ease.

But the protocol for keeping staff, drinkers and diners safe will be very different from pre-lockdown days, with hand sanitisation, one way systems, social distancing and mobile app-aided table service in place.

Meanwhile, police are planning a “significant” operation across Greater Manchester to ensure the reopening of pubs and eateries runs smoothly.

This follows comments by city-region mayor Andy Burnham describing the government’s decision to allow the reopening of pubs as “downright reckless”.

Greater Manchester Police's deputy chief constable Ian Pilling he said that the force was not "going soft” on enforcing illegal open-air events while the focus shifts onto the reopening of pubs.

Mr Pilling told a press conference on Monday: “People are becoming more bored with the lockdown, the weather is getting warmer, the nightclubs are not opening, and festivals have been cancelled.

“I think people want to go out and generally have a good time so I think we’ll see that on Saturday.

“We’ve got a significant policing operation in place across all of our towns and cities across the pubs and also to prevent all the raves from taking place again.”

It was also stressed that the police "could only respond to what has been put in front of them", with Mr Pilling urging the people of Greater Manchester to "come together".

He added: “Particularly, I appeal to the public who are going to go out and about on Saturday night and enjoy those pubs that have been reopened. Please behave sensibly.

“What I’d like is to be sitting here next Monday morning looking back and seeing we had a really good reopening of the pubs without any disorder taking place.”

Mr Burnham, speaking at the same press conference, slammed the government for not sharing their pub reopening plan with local leaders.

He said: “I think it is downright reckless to allow pubs to reopen on a Saturday when the country has been in lockdown

“It’s a Saturday in the summer in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a real concern. “

Mr Burnham also claimed that he had been informed by Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser, that some operators would not be opening on Saturday and would instead be taking a "cautious safety-first approach".

Plans were underway at one of Oldham’s Wetherspoon’s pubs to relaunch customer service.

A spokesman at The Upsteps Inn in High Street said: “Our plans to reopen are in progress. We are operating with reduced capacity with hand sanitisers all around the place.

“But we are looking forward to welcoming back our customers. It feels like a long time since we were last open.”

The pub company J D Wetherspoon says it has spent £11 million across the country to ensure its staff and customers are safe before the reopening.

One pub which will not be opening is the Ashton Arms in Clegg Street where the management have been repainting the cellar during the lockdown.

“The work will not be completed in time for this weekend,” a spokeswoman said. “But we hope to open by the following weekend.”

Another pub looking forward to the relaunch was The Shay Wake, in Milnrow Road, Shaw.

Shift manager Barrie Miller said: “There will be hand sanitisers, social distancing, a one-way system and table service using a mobile app.

“It will not be the same as before the lockdown, but we are determined to keep our customers and staff safe.”

The Milan Bar, in Elliott Street, Lees, said it would be open from noon on Saturday, for the first time in weeks.

Manager Craig Kerr told The Oldham Times: “We are really looking forward to Saturday.

“We will have tables outside, a one-way system and table service run by an app. We will have enough staff to cope. Our capacity is about 60 people.”

Elsewhere, Delph’s famous roadside hostelry, The Old Bell Inn opens at noon on Saturday.

It is opening outdoors and booking will not be essential, but to avoid disappointment they strongly recommend it as we have limited capacity indoors.

A spokesperson said: "When we reach our indoor capacity we will be working on a one-in-one out basis or people will be asked to use our outside areas.

"The health and safety of our staff and customers, as ever, is paramount. We have been using the past few weeks to ensure our full site has been deep cleaned from the carpets throughout the building to the paintwork, bar and kitchen have been deep cleaned and will continue to be deep cleaned weekly once we reopen to keep a high level of cleanliness."

And The Old Original, Saddleworth’s oldest licensed premises is also reopening to the public on Saturday.

Its website said: "Customers old and new will be welcomed back by Tom, Janette and family to enjoy good ale, good food and good company albeit with safety in mind in these difficult times.

"With the safety of customers and staff of utmost importance changes have been made to the way we operate but we are hopeful that our unique atmosphere will be still experienced by all."

When entering, customers will be to give way to people exiting to avoid face to face contact as much as possible. All customers will be allocated a table and must supply contact details which will be kept for 21 days to allow the authorities to contact them should infection be discovered.

The website continued: "We are only providing table service and customers are asked to book in advance to guarantee a table where they will be able to choose from the usual range of food and drinks which will be served to them.

"Capacity has been reduced to ensure that the required minimum one metre distance between face to face customers is achieved.

"As the ancient hostelry is small and only has one entrance all customers will be asked to cover their nose and mouth in courtesy to their fellow diners wherever possible on entry and when they move from their table to use the toilets. There are five sanitising points for both customers and staff and a number of screens have been placed to protect customers."