Furious landlords in Scotland and Wales are facing a New Year washout – as thousands of punters head to England.
Bar owners in Wrexham told how revellers were hiring minibuses to take them over the border for a night out with no Covid restrictions.
In Newcastle, Scots are already making the short hop from the Borders, or taking a train from Edinburgh in preparation for tomorrow.
Steven Kirk, who runs the Holy Hobo nightspot, said venues across the city had noticed a rise in customers from north of the border.
“We are expecting more on New Year’s Eve,” he added.
Beverley Davies, 52, who runs the Greyhound Inn in Wrexham, north west Wales, said locals were heading to Chester, Liverpool and Manchester to see in the New Year.
She said: “They are not ignoring advice. There is nothing stopping them from crossing the border.
“If I was 20 years younger and wanted to celebrate New Year I would do the same. But it is destroying our business.
“I wish they would stop playing politics and do the same rules for every country in the UK.”
Newsquest / SWNS)
Chelly Jones, from the Stanton House Inn in the Chirk area of the town, has cancelled the live entertainment planned for New Year.
Mrs Jones, whose pub is less than half-a-mile from the border with England, said: “Christmas has been a disaster, we’ve never had a year like it. The week before Christmas, the new restrictions in Wales killed our profits. They kept us open, but shut us really.
“There’s a pub just across from us able to do whatever they want on New Year’s Eve.
“If people want to party, they only have to walk a mile up the road.”
Ollie Vaulkhard, MD of Vaulkhard Leisure, has 20 pubs and nightspots in Newcastle, Ponteland and Morpeth and is expecting an influx.
“As long as there are restrictions in Scotland, we will see an increase in business here” he said.
“It is not just for New Year, people jump on trains for birthdays and anniversaries. It is just over an hour away from Scotland. I have friends who have hotels here and they are busy for New Year.
“People want to live their lives. They can do it for the sake of a train ticket.”
Greg Mulholland, of the Campaign for Pubs, reckons as many as 100,000 revellers will travel to England, based on talks with members.
He said: “They are not all coming just for the night, people are visiting friends or relatives to enjoy a normal New Year’s Eve. Others are going for a mini-break. This was of course entirely predictable and shows why there needs to be a more coordinated approach.”
Justin Realff, landlord of the Grosvenor Arms in Aldford, near Chester, on the Welsh border, said numbers may have to be limited if too many people turn up.
Tom Smith, 24, of Newport, south Wales, is going to Bristol or Chepstow for New Year. “I don’t understand why there are restrictions for us, but not for England,” he said.
“I’m sure London will be full of the virus over the New Year, but little pubs and clubs in Wales have got to suffer.
“If I go to Bristol I’ll take the train, but they’re bound to be packed.
“I want to have a proper night out with a proper party. I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.”
Hayley Carter runs the White Horse Inn in Staunton, in the Forest of Dean, Glos, 100 yards from the Welsh border.
She has already seen a surge in New Year’s Eve bookings thanks to people “hopping over from Wales.”
“I think it should be the same rules of everybody really – it’s ridiculous.
“I’m not going to overfill the pub, but I’m not going to turn people away.”
Nightclubs in Scotland and Wales are not allowed to open, and the rule of six is in place for pubs and restaurants in Wales.
In Scottish pubs, a 1metre distance must be maintained between tables, groups will be limited to three households, and booze must be served at the table.
Kelly Humphries, 50, landlady of the Mitre pub in Blackpool, Lancs, saw an influx of Scots escaping tough restrictions in the first lockdown. Last night she said: “Whether it will be the same again, we don’t know.”
In North Wales, Paul Slater’s pub the Trotting Mare is on the Welsh side of the border near Overton, but his car park is in England.
Wales’s crackdown meant he cancelled a disco and karaoke for up to 60 customers and now has just 24 booked in. He did toy with the idea of holding the event in his car park but said a marquee at such late notice was costly.
In Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stephen Scott, of the local chamber of commerce, predicted Scots will visit to buy cheaper alcohol at supermarkets for parties at home. But they were not expecting a huge rise in New Year revellers.
Where you can party… and where you can’t
In Scottish pubs, a 1m distance must be maintained between tables.
Groups of people meeting will be limited to three households, and alcohol must be served at the table.
Similar rules apply in Wales where alcohol must be served at the table in bars and restaurants.
Scots are being urged to limit social contact as much as possible until at least the end of the first week in January and to stay home as much as is feasible’.
And for three weeks, limits are in place on the size of public events.
Those limits are – up to 100 people at indoor standing events; up to 200 people at indoor seated events; up to 500 people, either seated or standing, at outdoor events.
This means the cancellation of large Hogmanay events, such as the famous celebrations in Edinburgh. Sporting events, such as football matches, will effectively be spectator-free.
Since October, in Scotland, anyone over the age of 18 must show proof – if asked – that they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to nightclubs and other indoor venues.
Covid passports are also now required in similar situations in England.
Proof of a negative LFD test will be needed before people can visit someone in hospital or a care home, or accompany someone to a medical appointment.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.