DRINKERS across Durham and Darlington drank 291 pints per minute in a much-needed spending boost on Monday, new figures suggest, as thirsty customers were allowed indoors for the first time this year.

Trade bodies welcomed the further easing of Covid rules but cautioned that the "fragile" hospitality sector is relying on all restrictions being removed before it can operate successfully.

Banking firm Revolut analysed the data of its 9,000 customers in County Durham and 4,000 customers in Darlington on Monday, May 17, and found that drinkers knocked back around 122 and 169 pints per minute, respectively, at their peak.

The biggest spenders were 25 to 34 year-old men, though Revolut said their customers tend to be slightly younger than the national average.

County Durham customers shelled out less per round than others across the country – spending £9.37 per transaction, compared to the average of £12.86 across Britain.

Though one punter did spend £269.58 in just one purchase in a pub or restaurant.

In Darlington, spending averaged out at £10.01 per transaction, with £197.17 being the highest transaction.

Bars and restaurants in England were allowed to serve food and drinks indoors from May 17, following the return of outdoor hospitality on April 12.

Spending in bars was still 6 per cent down on normal levels, which could be because thousands of pubs are still closed and those open have significantly reduced capacity, the British Beer and Pub Association said.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: "After some questionable weather during the last week or so, we know Brits are looking forward to being back inside the pub.

“This is by no means the end of the crisis for our sector. We need pubs fully reopened without any restrictions at all on June 21 to survive and trade viably.

“The countdown to freedom, and recovery, is on.”

Bosses at The Grange bar in Darlington said Monday was quieter than expected.

They said: "The people we had in the bar still sat outside. We felt people were still a bit wary but we are looking forward to the weekend to see how that goes, and hopefully the weather is better. We are hopeful for the whole place to reopen next month, with our DJ back and upstairs open."

The figures also show the behaviour of residents in restaurants and cafes on Monday.

Spending in County Durham was 19 per cent lower than what would have been expected last year – compared to the average across Britain of 32 per cent below – while spending in Darlington restaurants is down 9 per cent.

UKHospitality said this week's reopening shows a significant step for the sector as a whole.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive, added the step closer to normality was "psychological rather than economic", as businesses are still operating with significant restrictions.

"That’s why we need the Government to stick to the roadmap and remove all restrictions beyond June 21,” she added.

That date is the proposed final stage of the roadmap out of lockdown in England, when all social restrictions would be removed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is no “conclusive” evidence to deviate from the schedule despite concerns over the Indian coronavirus variant.