LAST weekend was the first since the 10pm curfew in pubs was introduced amongst  series of new rules in the Government’s latest bid to curb the rise in Covid 19 cases.

But while there were reports of ‘sprawling masses’ in the country’s cities, it was a different scene in Cheshire’s small towns.

According to the mid Cheshire pubs the Guardian spoke to following the weekend’s trade it was a pretty civilised affair, but difficulties and frustrations are emerging for publicans and punters as they grapple with yet more new rules.

Chris Mundie runs The Salty Dog in Northwich, an intimate hostelry beloved for its craft ales, live music, DJ sets and comedy nights. He and the team have tried to remain positive as they adapt the way they do things yet again. There are gigs coming up with John Otway playing on Sunday, October 18 and a gig by Tony Wright from Terrorvision already sold out.

Winsford Guardian: But while the venue’s customers are loyal, Chris is not without his concerns and he says the 10om curfew has been ‘a real pain’.

“We’ve basically had our most profitable hours cut, with zero compensation. We can't reduce staff hours because of the increased need for table service, and even if we did and used the new top-up scheme, we’d end up paying near enough double time on an hourly basis and the employee would still only be taking home 78% of their usual pay.

“We are all in favour of measures taken in the name of public health, but it’s hard to see these new measures as anything other than an arbitrary decision made by a Government that needs to be seen to taking some sort of action.

“We are lucky in that we have a loyal customer base and they continue to support us as best they can, but it does seem the industry as a whole has become a scapegoat, despite proving as a sector that we are responsible and have been able to regulate ourselves since the July 4 without any noticeable increases in infection rates.”

For Martin Moseley, of the Weaver Valley Cooperative which runs which runs The Kings Lock in Middlewich, plus the Red Lion and The Gate Inn in Winsford, the weekend went well but he says things could become more difficult when it comes to winter.

Winsford Guardian:

He said: “In terms of our customers they were all fantastic and understand the measures we’ve had to put in place, so everyone was very co-operative.

“We’re fortunate that we have a large garden at The Kings Lock and we’ve been able to put up a marquee so that makes a difference as the pub itself is very small. But obviously, we usually put on a lot of events here throughout the year and we need to work out just how these new measures are going to impact on those.

“It’s frustrating because it’s yet another period of adjustment for people, but we’re just going to have to get used to it. Luckily, our clientele has been really supportive of us all the way through this crisis so I hope that continue to be case.”

Paul Johnson, who runs The Horse and Jockey and The Carters’ Arms in Wilmslow, has mixed feeling about the new rules and says they’ve impacted his pubs in different ways.

Winsford Guardian:

He said: “Getting people to wear masks has been a bit of slow slog, and there was a bit of confusion for some people who hadn’t downloaded the track and trace ap before they arrived. But hopefully, as more people get used to it, it will get easier as the weeks go on. That is until they change things again!

“In terms of The Horse and Jockey the 10pm curfew hasn’t really affected us that much, and the rule of six is actually better. I’ve created booths of six which is easier for us to manage. Unfortunately, table service doubles the work and takes a lot longer.

“It’s hit us much harder at The Carters Arm where we’ve almost halved our trade. It’s a pub where people come to watch football and because we are sticking strictly to these rules, I think it’s put a lot of people off. The thing is you wonder where these people are going – are they just mixing at each other’s houses instead of going out?

“The support of the community overall has been great though – we are feeling very loved at the minute. It has been a pretty exhausting time, and it’s frustrating having to continually adapt, but we are where we are.”