Pub spending is more than 60 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels in Northumberland.

Pubs have been allowed to open their indoor areas from May 17, and while residents in the county spent more money in the pub than the previous month, overall spending is still way below pre-pandemic levels.

According to figures from banking firm Revolut, Northumberland punters spent 42 per cent more in pubs between May 17 and June 13. Though that may sound positive, it is still 63 per cent below the level recorded in February 2020.

That’s lower than the national average – spending in the month since pubs reopened for indoor service was 58 per cent down overall across the UK.

Justin Mather, landlord of the Globe in Hexham, said: “We can only get 27 customers in on a busy night. We’d usually have 60 or 70 before Covid.”

“Last week’s announcement wasn’t a surprise but it has affected customer confidence. As such, sales have dropped by ten per cent, on top of the 10 per cent we were already down.

For Carla Rowley, manager of the Grapes in Hexham, it’s not just about the reduced customer numbers or a drop in income. She said: “It’s been hard just because people have always been drinking in here for years and they are used to sitting and the bar and chatting to the staff.

“It’s even just things like trying to get people not to glass collect – they like helping us out and they’re creatures of habit – so trying to change 20 years of the norm is difficult.”

“A lot of the men who drink in here have been stuck inside for 6 months, so telling them that they can’t sit with their friends or chat to us isn’t very nice at all.”

With regard to the delay in the lifting of restrictions, Carla continued: “It wasn’t what we were hoping for, what was announced on Monday. It was a setback but we have got to make the best of it.”

Carla and Justin are not the only ones disappointed by the delay. The British Beer and Pub Association, UK Hospitality and the Campaign for Real Ale say the are ‘bitterly disappointed’, which they estimate will cost pubs £400 million.

A joint spokesperson said: “Our sector is facing one of its toughest periods in its history. Many pubs cannot break even under current restrictions and around 2,300 still remain closed.

“It is absolutely critical that the Government provides our sector with further support -else the recovery of our pubs will be over before they’ve even been given a chance.”

Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said: "Our hospitality industry has been hugely affected by the pandemic. I have visited a number of pubs since their reopening, and landlords have made huge efforts to make their pubs safe for customers to visit and enjoy.
"As restrictions ease, I look forward to continuing to visit and support our local pubs, and listen to the concerns of landlords. They are the lifeblood of our community, and if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them."

Across Northumberland the number of pubs has fallen from 325 in 2001 to 240 in 2020.