Sheffield opens up: here's what you need to know

Plus the rest of our weekly briefing including recommendations for places to visit and stories to read, some great photographs and an update on Covid-19

Good morning and welcome to this week’s briefing from The Tribune. The big day of reopening is upon us, and we’ll bring you some news about how that is going to play out in Sheffield, plus our usual recommendations and updates.

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Our weekend read about a long-forgotten Victorian STI clinic in Sheffield city centre got a great response from readers. If you didn’t catch it you can still read it here. And if you know of any other untold stories you think we should feature, please reply to this newsletter or contact us on social media. Sheffield’s rich history is something we want to focus on at The Tribune, so please get in touch.

The big story: Sheffield reopens

The top line: It is now 170 days since pubs in Sheffield were forced to close as we moved to what was then called Tier 3 on October 23 last year. 14 weeks after full lockdown began just a few days into the New Year, today’s long-awaited reopening of non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality will be a very welcome shot in the arm for the city.

Dozens of pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes are opening today or later this week, bringing some life back to the city’s hospitality industry for the first time in almost six months. It’s a big moment for venues which have enough outdoor space to make the numbers work, like Sheffield’s hugely successful True North company, which today opens eight beer gardens across the city.

  • While the chilly evening temperatures may deter some, you can expect to see plenty of hardy Sheffielders taking the chance to eat and drink outside, particularly on Ecclesall Road where many of the bars and restaurants are more blessed with outdoor space (and patio heaters) than those in the city centre.

Not everyone is reopening: We spoke to Nick Simonite, manager of the Frog and Parrot pub on Division Street and chair of Unight, a group which represents the night-time economy in Sheffield city centre. He says they need to open as soon as possible, but that despite the popular pub and restaurant obtaining a street licence, servicing just 20 seats simply isn’t viable.

  • Nick is hoping for a legal miracle. Manchester businessman Sacha Lord has launched a legal challenge against the government, arguing that indoor hospitality should be allowed to open at the same time as non-essential shops. If this isn’t successful, Nick and many others like him will have to wait until the summer.

The Telegraph reports that trade body UK Hospitality has warned that two-thirds of pubs don’t have enough outdoor space to open, and even those that do might only make a fifth of their usual takings.

Missing millions: Even for venues that do open, profitability will probably remain some way off, Nick told us. Of the £12m Sheffield Council received from central Government to support local businesses impacted by the Covid restrictions, by January 18 only £7.8m had been given out. Nick says getting this money out to struggling businesses should be the council’s priority. He told The Tribune:

It is an absolute battle. There are lots of people who haven’t been given the support they need. The council people see their role as protecting the public purse —but we need to get the money out there to protect jobs.

Not just pubs…

Apart from a brief period between August and October last year, one of the city centre’s best loved attractions has remained closed for much of the past 12 months. From today, however, the Winter Garden is open once more — albeit as a thoroughfare only for the time being.

This week’s weather

Forecast sourced from the Met Office.

Covid-19 Update

Rules: Today is the first day that outdoor hospitality, non-essential shops and personal care services can open in almost six months. Sheffield’s director of public health Greg Fell has urged people to stick to the rules and not to ‘go mad’.

Case rate: The rate of new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents is 78 in Sheffield, the lowest it has been in six months but still well above the England average of 29.3. The case rate for over-60s in the city is now just 29.4, compared with 90.6 for the under-60s. 

Hospitals: 64 patients are now being treated for Covid-19 in Sheffield’s hospitals, down from 77 last week and a high of 417 on January 22. Nine of these patients are on ventilation, a fall of one from last week. Three new deaths linked to the virus have been reported in the last seven days.

Vaccines: As of April 4, 305,839 vaccine doses have been administered in Sheffield, including 252,107 first doses. 94.6% of over 80s in the city have now had at least one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

If you’d like us to look into a Covid-19 story for you or have any questions about the latest figures, please email

Book of the week

Brutal Sheffield by Martin Dust

While not quite Brasilia, Sheffield could probably lay claim to being one of the ‘most brutal’ cities in the world. The damage done to the city in the Blitz led to a building boom in the post-war years, much of which survives today. Sheffield-born photographer Martin Dust says his latest book is an attempt to capture the ‘poetry of concrete and glass’ and its impact on both the city and our everyday lives.

Brutalist icons such as Park Hill flats and the Moore Street electricity substation feature of course, but there is also space for less well-known modernist motorway bridges, churches and car parks. The book is available from the author’s website, where posters of some of the city’s most iconic brutes are also on sale.

Sheffield is almost unrecognisable in this 1973 photo taken from Commercial Street. Hyde Park flats are visible in the far distance — they were built as Park Hill’s sister building in the 1960s and then largely demolished almost 30 years ago. Closer to the camera you can see Park Square roundabout is in the process of being built, but the tram bridge and Ponds Forge are still decades away.

Five things to do: Outdoor hospitality special

  1. The Leadmill: Nightclubs and music venues were some of the first places to close due to the pandemic and will be the last things to reopen. However, you can still get your fix of Sheffield’s legendary music venue from today at a specially created beer garden they’ve set up for the next stage of the roadmap. Places are on a first come first served basis and the beer garden is heavily weather dependent, so check the website before setting out.

  2. Hygge: Lots of coffee shops and cafes across the city will be reopening this week, and many of you will already have your favourite. One you might not know yet is Hygge on Fitzalan Square, which opened shortly before the first lockdown. The cafe serves hot drinks, food and now even has an alcohol licence, while recent regeneration work has dramatically improved the previously unloved square’s ambience.

  3. Kommune: Since it first opened in 2019, Castlegate’s Kommune has been a revelation, transforming a former Co-op building in a run-down part of the city centre into a massively successful modern food hall. Currently on the menu are tacos from Mexican restaurant Torito, shawarma from middle-eastern street food outlet MorMor and Indian bhaji boxes from Chaat Cart. Kommune opens for outdoor service only this Friday.

  4. Pop-up at Plug: If the Leadmill beer garden is full, hip bowling alley Lane 7 on the Moor have created a massive pop-up 200-seater beer garden in the car park of the nearby Plug nightclub and music venue. Organisers promise street food, a giant screen and an outdoor bar, and the space has been decorated by graffiti artists to make it feel, well, less like a car park. Book via the Lane 7 website.

  5. Terrace Goods on Orchard Square’s first floor terrace, another pop-up, will open on Wednesday, April 14. The pop-up promises ‘fast casual dining’ including Nashville HotChicken, Poutine, a deli counter and pizza by the slice, all on recyclable plates and trays. Drinks include cocktails and beer and the venue will be open from 12-9pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

The wonderful photo, showing a sunny but chilly Sheffield spring day, caught our eye on Facebook recently. The photographer who took it, Matt Collins, said he didn’t know who the four ladies huddled on a Handsworth Top bench were, but that it looked like they were enjoying a brew in each other’s company for the first time in a while.

Five stories worth reading

  • BBC journalist and Sheffield native Emily Maitlis adds her name to the growing list of those mourning the loss of Cole Brothers (John Lewis) in this lovely piece in the Sunday Times Magazine. Maitlis describes Cole’s as both a ‘member of the family’ and a tantalising glimpse of the sophistication and luxury of the outside world. “You made Sheffield feel we had hit the big time,” she writes. “We believed we could get anything we wanted in Coles. It was our connection to the rest of the world.”

  • Tom Hunt, the Sheffield academic we spoke to last week about the future of housing in the city centre, has joined forces with architect Adam Park to produce a vision for the way the John Lewis building could be used in the future. Writing in the Sheffield Telegraph, Tom said the area could become ‘Sheffield’s Covent Garden’, with the building used for a combination of hospitality, retail, culture and housing.

  • This Times story reports on the increasing number of house sales which are attracting multiple offers. Estate agents Hamptons which found Sheffield homes had the third highest number of multiple offers in England and Wales. The rise is thought to be partly due to house hunters putting in offers for multiple homes for fear of losing out in what is described as a ‘buying frenzy’.

  • Sheffield’s forthcoming governance referendum (covered here two weeks ago) has had a bit more attention in the last week, with Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director Henri Murison one of the first to back the current ‘strong leader’ model over the modern committee system favoured by the Its Our City! campaign. The piece - which was printed in The Star but not put online - is accessible on Twitter where it provoked some robust debate between Murison, It’s Our City! and council leaders.

  • Utopia Theatre is the only African theatre organisation in the north of England. In this Yorkshire Post piece — which is part of a lockdown series on theatre companies in the county — writer, broadcaster and comedian Nick Ahad interviews Mojisola Elufowoju, founder and artistic director about the history of the group and the challenges of the last year. She says that while staging shows online has presented difficulties, the need to innovate has also created surprising opportunities.


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