Watford pubs and businesses have voiced their delight at finally being able to host people inside after lockdown restrictions eased.

Today's step saw indoor dining and leisure return for the first time this year - with local shoppers wasting no time diving into the town's eateries.

Among those overjoyed to fully welcome back customers was Franco Malanga, manager at L'artista in High Street.

He told the Observer: "We are so excited to have people back inside the restaurant.

"We have seen people so happy to come and enjoy the food inside.

"Many customers have waited a long time to be able to come back and enjoy our Italian food."

Watford Observer: L'artista in Watford town centre.L'artista in Watford town centre.

The manager revealed he was happy with the number of people who were confident enough to visit, and confirmed several more bookings were already lined up for the evening.

He added that the restaurant is following all the safety procedures and he hopes this latest loosening of restrictions will mean no one is ever banned from visiting normally again.

Franco continued: "We are so happy to be able to have people inside again.

"Especially with the English weather – we are not in Spain or Italy – so finally the customers can meet friends and family and enjoy the food inside."

Watford Observer: The Florist Watford said it has been busy all day.The Florist Watford said it has been busy all day.

Michaela Kurajdova, a manager at The Florist Watford, also revealed people had been flooding in all day and claimed it was a relief to finally be open properly.

"It’s been very good,” she said.

"We have been busy in the morning from 10am doing brunches and have been busy throughout the day.

"We have had great feedback from our guests, I guess everyone is happy to be able to dine inside the restaurant again.

"We have been open for the outside since last week but with the uncertain weather we are definitely very happy to be back."

As well as the eateries, local pubs also enjoyed a boost in numbers - with punters clearly thrilled at no longer needing to brave the weather for a pint.

Jacob Varreto, manager at Wetherspoon pub The Moon Under Water, said: "Everything seems to be working with people sat down in the pub – a lot of people want alcohol!

"It’s good to see all the faces, all the regulars, to see them chilling and drinking the exact same drinks.

"All the smiles are back as well so that’s really nice."

MORE: The Florist Watford returns with new Parisian terrace

MORE: Providing a friendly atmosphere at L'artista in Watford

Watford residents and sweet stall owner Suren Vis is delighted to be able to enjoy a pint again inside of his favourite pubs.

He's been at the Dome bar in St Albans Road and says it has been like a "reunion" and that everyone is "enjoying being back".

Watford Observer:

Suren, right, at the Dome bar with his friend Luke

Although the picture was not quite so rosy for the town centre's Starbucks, the lead supervisor expressed her happiness at being able to serve people inside again.

She said it "hadn’t been hectic" – though Mondays often rarely are – and even so they had still taken slightly more money than usual.

"I think the atmosphere has been a little bit better for everyone", she added.

"Everyone before was asking and complaining about not being able to sit inside as it was raining."

Watford Observer:

Tearoom and coffee shop The Kitchen Croxley

Linda Anderson was delighted to welcome her customers back to her tearooms in Croxley Green.

Linda, who runs The Kitchen Croxley, said: "Today's been quite emotional. It was lovely to ask whether people wanted to sit in or have a takeaway. 

"It's been a soft reopening today but we've had a steady stream of customers. For us, it is about seeing a smile on peoples faces and them seeing you enjoy the food you serve."

Today's also been the day Watford's leisure venues got the green light to reopen with the likes of Hollywood Bowl opening up again.

Watford Observer:

A brand new addition to Watford also opened today - Escape Hunt at Atria Watford, which is an escape room experience suitable for all ages.

Speaking on behalf of Escape Hunt, Tom Edwards said: "There was an exciting vibe and I think people were happy to be able to do something and not just sit at home."

"Our staff are really excited too. It's great to be able to finally open."

Watford Observer:

Watford's mayor Peter Taylor said: "I know that local businesses have worked so hard so they can reopen safely.

"Local cafes, pubs, and leisure businesses are really important to us.

"By shopping and eating locally, we can make sure these businesses can continue to operate in Watford in the future."