Stormont ministers agreed earlier this month that restrictions could be eased due to falling cases of coronavirus.
Under the restrictions, hospitality businesses must only operate outdoors, with table service and limited numbers.
“It’s the best day of our year,” said the Cottage Café manager, Michelle Devine, in Derry’s Craft Village.
Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Mrs Devine said: “We cant wait to welcome our loyal customers back to our lovely coffee shop.
“We closed on Christmas Eve, that was it. Since then we have been doing a lot of work towards reopening.
“We have revamped our menu and have just been getting ready waiting for this day and we are delighted to see life back in the city centre.”
As well as experiencing NI-wide lockdown restrictions throughout the pandemic, hospitality businesses in the Derry City and Strabane District council area were placed under a localised lockdown in October.
This was because of a significant spike in Covid-19 cases.
At one point, the area had the UK’s highest coronavirus infection rate.
Jim Roddy, manager of Derry’s City Centre Initiative, said he was delighted to see things “getting back to near normal”.
“There’s a fantastic atmosphere here and it’s amazing seeing smiling people walking through our city centre with bags of shopping already,” he said.
Mr Roddy said that although it was a “significant day” it was important to remember that many businesses are still unable to reopen.
“Any city centre is the sum of all its components, if it is only partly opening then it is not going to reach its maximum potential,” he said.
Derry Chamber president Dawn McLaughlin said that local shops, restaurants, cafes, and pubs have been “among the hardest hit in the past 12 months”.
Ms McLaughlin said this year’s summer trading period “will be vital for independent and small retailers” and encouraged people to shop local and abide by all current coronavirus regulations.She added: “It is imperative that we remember the fundamentals of mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing, and good ventilation to reduce the spread of the virus.”
The retail chief encouraged people in the north west to shop local and “remember to keep doing the right things to keep those Covid figures down”.
“I didn’t sleep at all last night I was that excited,” Niamh Fahy from Walled City Crafters said.
Ms Fahy told BBC Radio Foyle that as a non-essential retailer, she found being closed for such a prolonged period of time extremely difficult and was constantly wondering when she would be able to reopen.
“I did think ‘when is this ever going to end?’ We have just kept busy, changing things in the shop and making sure things look good.
“A lot of work has been going on in the background for this day.”Raymond Moran, who is the chef and owner of Soda & Starch in the city, said it “feels like Christmas morning” and he and his staff “are ready to go”.
“I can feel the emotion building up in me already and I’ve only just opened, bring it on, it has been a long winter,” he said.
Mr Moran said he missed his work routine, the social aspect of working with his staff every day, and just simply having conversations with his regular customers.
Mr Moran said he was extremely fortunate to be able to reopen on Friday, but said it was “heart-breaking” seeing some businesses unable to survive financially because of the pandemic.Tags: