PUBLICANS, restaurant owners and drinkers alike forecast the latest restrictions imposed on the licensed trade could see “time” called on some long-standing watering holes.

Fears abound that the reduction of opening hours and the new prohibitions on social mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues could be the death knell for some, many only just recovering from huge losses suffered during the longer lockdown earlier in the year.

Confusion abounded after Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement affecting seven North-East council areas, from County Durham to the Scottish border and clarification only emerged later in the day.

But within a short time of the lunch-time declaration a spate of reservations were cancelled at The Court Inn, in Durham, which caters for drinkers and restaurant-goers alike.

Co-manager Matt Dorman fears it may prove one setback too many for the traditional pub.

“Within the last hour-and-a-half I’ve had two tables for six, booked in for Saturday and Sunday, and another for five, all cancelled, because they are from mixed households.

“We’ll have to call ‘last orders’ from 9.30pm to lock up at 10pm and it’s all going to cause a massive loss for the business.

“I’ll be honest, but I fear we could be bust within the next two to three weeks.

“We were just getting over the earlier lockdown, but this might just tip us over the edge.”

Fellow city publican Paddy Solan, who has run what is believed to be Durham’s oldest surviving pub, The Shakespeare, said it may finally lead to the closure of the well-known Saddler Street premises.

“We’ve been struggling on about 30-per cent of usual takings since we reopened after the lockdown, and I fear this might be the finish, what with all the bills, rent, at even reduced rates, and staff wages.

“Some days I’m not taking £300 and, at this rate, I can’t see us reaching Christmas.”

Seasoned city drinker Adi Mileham, a regular at both The Court Inn and the nearby Dun Cow, in Old Elvet, said: “Pubs are going to close and I can’t see them all being able to reopen.

“It’s not just going to affect the people running pubs, it’s all the staff who work in them.

“I can’t see the Government keeping on extending the furlough scheme much beyond November, it’s not feasible, with them having to continue funding the NHS.”