Coronavirus: Last night of the pubs as lockdown begins

People outside a pubImage source, PA Media

Drinkers around England won't be able to prop up the bars at their regular haunts after Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown.

Despite the prime minster's plea for people not to enjoy "one last pint" on Friday night, a few establishments reported an influx of customers before last orders.

For others, a quiet week continued as it had started, and their final night of trading was marked by empty seats.


Image caption,
Ryan North has "a lot of beer to use up"

Ryan North, manager at city centre bar The Wardrobe, said staff had been "in limbo" since Monday.

"It's slowed right down since then when people came in for their last pint.

"Picture says it all really, no point in staying open, but we've got a lot of beer to use up."


Image caption,
Refurbishments and the ban have hit Daniel Force

Daniel Force, barkeeper at the Brunswick Arms in Dawlish, said they had been closed for six weeks for a refurbishment.

"We tried to open up this week just to get some people through the door, and now we're being told we're closing tonight," he said.

"We even had a police officer come in to enforce the closure and make sure we close our doors at midnight."

"It's going to be tough, but hopefully with everyone's help, we'll be able to knuckle through."


Image caption,
"Relief" at certainty for The Loft

The Loft, near the city's Hippodrome theatre, was empty on Friday evening.

Owner Lawrence Barton said the chancellor's announcement had "actually brought a sense of conclusion and relief".

"I think the measures the Chancellor announced this evening are going to greatly help business and give us confidence we can support our workforce.

"We've been very concerned, the hospitality sector has been decimated, at least now it will give business owners the confidence to take the measure they need to secure as many jobs as possible."

Tunbridge Wells

Image caption,
A late storm before the calm in Kent

Manager Anthony Price closed the doors of the Bedford pub in Tunbridge Wells at 20:00 GMT. Staff took over £500 in their last hour and were forced to turn away dozens of people shortly before closing, he said.

The owners had considered closing earlier in the week, but had waited to receive the government order to close "because we didn't know whether the insurance companies would cover us".

"It was pay day for the staff today, so we wanted to make sure they got paid and made sure they were going to be alright for at least a month," he said.

Mr Price expects the pub to be closed for 12 weeks, but said it was "all up in the air".

Forcing pubs to close was the wrong decision, he said.

"I think the public are very resilient, especially the British, we are known for our stiff upper lip. I think, let the public decide what they want to do.

"If the older generation, the younger generation, they want to go to bars and restaurants, let them. At least give them the option.

"By me working, that's down to me, that's my risk. If the older generation want to come in for a beer, that's at their risk.

"I understand why they've done it and hopefully it brings a quicker resolution to the end of the virus, but I just think let people do what they want to do. It's locking people up for a minimum of 12 weeks, it is like prison.

"What you see on the news in other countries, you don't expect it to happen in England, you don't expect it to happen in Royal Tunbridge Wells."


Image caption,
Claire Brookes is using life savings while she waits for a lifeline

Claire Brookes, landlady of the Walnut Tree Shades, is planning to use her life savings to pay her staff until government money comes through at the end of April.

"I signed a tenancy agreement for five years and have lots of plans but now I've been told I have to close my business.

"I want to believe what the government will do will be good but I will not get access to their money until the end of April.

"I'm looking at financial ruin because the only thing I can do to help my staff till the money comes through is to use my life savings."

James Winfield, of Frank's Bar in the city centre, said he was going to develop a takeaway business.

Friday was his last night and he said he would be doing a lot of number-crunching over the weekend.

"I'm worried but full of hope so will be ordering food and drink for the new business while taking one day at a time," he said.

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