THE owner of a chicken restaurant is looking forward to opening this weekend just months after he was struck down by coronavirus.

Shuaib Ishaq, 40, fell ill with Covid-19 symptoms in March, but after recovering, he has worked hard to ensure Pepe’s Grill in Bolton town centre is ready to serve its much-loved piri piri chicken once again.

“Fingers crossed we will be opening on Saturday, July 4,” said Shuaib. “As long as the grills turn back on after 15 weeks!”

Shuaib’s restaurant, which is part of Pepe’s 112-store chain, was forced to close when lockdown started and all non-essential shops were ordered to shut.

“The few weeks have seen us install screens and rejig all the tables to ensure all the social distancing measures can be enforced,” he said.

“We have had to get hold of PPE and floor markings, and it has been quite a struggle to source the screens.

“Everywhere has been out of stock, with long delivery delays, and we were waiting on the government’s announcement to confirm we could open and what the rules were before we could order them.

“It has been a mad dash to get everything installed and I have the counter ready now and have ordered screens to divide the tables - the earliest I could get them is tomorrow which is the day before we open so I’m quite nervous.

“If anything goes wrong I will have to change the table layout.”

Shuaib has been left frustrated by the lack of guidance from the government which has left his restaurant in The Vault closed for over 100 days.

“All the information has been late in coming,” he said. “They have left us hanging until the middle of June about the rules and should’ve said from day one what measures had to be put in place and from when.

“Thankfully we are part of a franchise so we have had extra support and people who could explain it, but for independent businesses it can’t have been easy to understand.

“I had already reorganised the tables under what I understood the guidelines to be before head office contacted me and explained it all fully.”

Despite the confusion, Shuaib is confident he will soon be welcoming customers back - at least in the short term.

“It should be busy because a lot of people have been waiting but I am a little bit worried about the long-term future,” he said. “I think it will be quite a struggle to be honest.”

Shuaib knows first hand the dangers of coronavirus after being diagnosed with it in March.

“I was off for two weeks from work and quite bad symptoms,” he said. “I had to go to the emergency doctor.

“Thankfully I feel all right now and I can’t wait to get back open - it has been a long and frustrating wait.”