Southsea businesses 'optimistic' about summer boom as crowds flock to the seafront for Easter bank holiday
'OPTIMISTIC' businesses in Southsea are preparing for a summer boom as bank holiday crowds begin to make the most of easing restrictions.
Socially distanced crowds gathered along Southsea seafront and Canoe Lake to enjoy the start of the bank holiday weekend yesterday, with many visitors reporting a change in atmosphere that went beyond the clear blue skies.
After 12 months of lockdowns and restrictions, a sense of excitement about the future is returning to the city's seafront, according to Mark Wilson, the owner of the Southsea Model Village.
Mark, who has owned the tourist attraction for six years said: 'It's been a struggle - we spent nine weeks open during the whole of last year.
'But people seem to be excited again. There's a great atmosphere down here. Everyone is smiling and happy.
'It's our first day open since Halloween and business has been brilliant.'
The Southsea Model Village is hoping to capitalise on summer crowds with a new £3,000 staging area for live performances.
At South Parade Pier, the Kidz Island funfair is preparing for returning punters as it installs three new rides, including a bumper car ring.
Owner David Wallis said: 'We have been closed since October. It's been a tough time. We're hoping for a good summer - we do need this summer to be good. We're ready to open and ready to roll.'
For children's entertainer Leto Kitchen, aka Sylvester the Jester, there is the hope that the improving weather and easing lockdown will continue to bring out the best in people.
The 37-year-old said: 'It's just nice to have that feelgood atmosphere back.
'I love it - it feels like that people are very appreciative to be out and about.
'I feel very positive and optimistic.'
Responding to an unruly crowd of youths at the Hot Walls in 2019 and anti-social behaviour across Southsea Common last year, police intend to increase patrols to maintain a peaceful atmosphere.
For some Southsea residents, there is a sense of empathy with young people who are looking forward to making up for a year of strict restrictions.
Stanley Road resident Antony Sutherland, who was enjoying a picnic with friends from another household, said: 'If I was 14 to 25 I would have really struggled. I really feel for them.
'We're really lucky where we are in Southsea - there's so much to do with the beach and the parks. As soon as the sunshine is out, it makes a huge difference.’
Southsea resident Lucy Mitchell-Doe added: 'We've been coming down here when we can - even when it's been awful weather.'
Business owners and residents are also hoping that the council steps up this summer, with calls for increased toilet cleaning and bin emptying to encourage responsible behavior.
But it remains up to residents and visitors to be respectful and keep each other safe, according to 74-year-old Gina Dore, out and about after 12 months 'stuck inside'.
The Elm Grove resident said: 'I'm hoping that people remember to stay safe, and I think masks should remain worn for the next six months.'
Fellow pensioners Jackie and John Walker agreed, with the pair planning to make the most of life after a 'hair-raising' case of Covid-19 sent John, 79, to Queen Alexandra Hospital for three weeks over Christmas.
Jackie, 73, said: 'We are now really enjoying life and looking forward to the summer.'