'Christmas Eve atmosphere' as pubs shut for lockdown

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags lockdown Coronavirus Legislation Health and safety Pubs

Punters came out in force last night for one last hurrah and to support their locals ahead of a four-week lockdown in England.

Operators described the call for last orders as “emotional” yesterday (Wednesday 4 November).

It was an unusual Wednesday evening for the season, licensees said, with capacity full. 

Operator Brett Mendoza runs the Caxton Arms in Brighton and said the pub “almost felt normal” last night, with the pub booking a live singer for the occasion. 

“We went out on a high,” Mendoza said.

Full capacity

“The atmosphere was great, lots of happy people enjoying being out for the last time," Mendoza added. "Every table in the pub, the garden and our function room were booked from 6pm.”

The pub will use lockdown to refurbish the pub and decorate for Christmas, as well as allowing staff to “recharge”.

The last night before lockdown at the Caxton Arms, Brighton
The last night before lockdown at the Caxton Arms, Brighton

Mendoza hopes to continue working with charity Brighton Food Partnership to provide free school meals to children, as well as helping other members of the community “in need in these tough times”.

“Closing down is a bit soul destroying,” he said. “The last two weeks were our busiest two weeks since we reopened.

“The Caxton Arms is very much a winter pub, so the busiest two  months of the year are November and December. Obviously there will be no trade in November and I assume we will be restricted to groups of six still in December.”

“Then we are into January and February which are notoriously tough for pubs, but this time we don't have the buffer of November and December takings to keep us afloat.”

His comments come as trade body the British Beer and Pub Association has warned up to 12,000 pubs risk permanent closure if the Government does not set out additional support soon.

Emotional goodbye

Another operator to appreciate the support of punters on his pub’s last night is Ellis Pannell, who runs the Pyne Arms in Barnstaple, North Devon.

“In all honesty it was rather emotional, the support shown by our local community has been unbelievable," he explained. "For us to be full on a November evening on a Wednesday is a first.

“The staff have been amazing [at] adapting to all the measures. It’s been tough on all of us and has been a rollercoaster of a year.”

Adam Brooks runs two pubs in Essex and told The Morning Advertiser​ there was a very different atmosphere to the advent of the first lockdown in March.

Christmas Eve atmosphere

"Many of our locals booked tables with their families and a few I haven’t seen before, the mood was completely different to the last Lockdown ‘eve’," Brooks explained. "It was a sense of making it all about us, the pub staff. People did not stop saying, 'We want to be the first to book for reopening night'.

"It really was a little bit like Christmas Eve in regards to atmosphere. The tips were very generous to the staff working last night. The sense of fear from people seemingly gone and more an attitude that this cannot go on much longer."

Adam Franklin runs the Horse and Jockey in Melling and hosted a meeting of community volunteers instead of opening last night.

There were images of police attempting to disperse crowds in central London last night, after pubgoers were forced to leave venues at 10pm. However, many operators experienced safe and calm evenings while customers described enjoyable experiences on social media.

Here are some more examples of what the trade said on social media.

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