Thousands flock back to pubs on Super Saturday as police chief criticises drunken behaviour
People have been flocking to pubs in their thousands – with some apparently flouting social distancing guidelines – as England’s most significant relaxation of lockdown rules so far came into force.
As new regulations cleared the path for bars to reopen – on what was widely dubbed “Super Saturday” – pictures showed drinkers packing beer gardens and outdoor areas.
Disorder in some parts of the country forced pubs to close early, with police making arrests after violent clashes.
But on a day that also saw hairdressers reopening, weddings allowed to take place in front of loved ones and people allowed to meet friends and family indoors, many people reported nightspots being significantly less busy than before the lockdown began.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was nice to see people out and about.
“Although there’s some pictures to the contrary, very, very largely people have behaved responsibly,” he told Sophy Ridge.
“It was good to see people out and about and – very largely – social distancing.”
The health secretary revealed he had his haircut yesterday and is “very relieved about it”.
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation for England and Wales, criticised the drunken behaviour of some revellers and said it was “crystal clear” they would not adhere to the one-metre-plus rule as restrictions were eased.
He tweeted: “Finished my late shift with the @HantsPolice Southampton City late shift. A busy shift, we dealt with anti-social behaviour, naked men, possession of class ‘A’ drugs, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights, more angry drunks and was called a fascist pig by somebody we tried to help!
“What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t/won’t socialy (sic) distance. It was a busy night but the shift managed to cope. I know other areas have had issues with officers being assaulted. Now heading home, to those still on shift please stay safe.”
Other forces said they had been busy, with Devon and Cornwall Police saying they had received more than 1,000 calls, mainly linked to drink-related disorder and antisocial behaviour. Dorset Police said they had recorded 525 incidents in 24 hours.
West Midlands traffic police said they had arrested three drink-drivers, one of whom was violent towards officers.
However, other forces, such as Cambridgeshire, praised people for behaving responsibly.
Chief Constable of West Midlands Police Dave Thompson said there had been a “slow steady approach to the night time economy reopening in Birmingham”, with “licensees acting with real professionalism”.
And in Leicester, where pubs did not reopen due to a localised lockdown following a spike in cases of the virus, police in the city centre praised people for staying indoors and tweeted to say there was “not a soul to be seen” on Saturday night.
A number of pubs chose to close after disturbances in Nottinghamshire.
Police said three bars in Mansfield and Sutton in Ashfield, and two in Arnold and Newark had opted to shut early.
The Ravensdale pub in Mansfield posted on its Facebook page that it would be closed “until further notice” due to “irresponsible behaviour”.
Inspector Craig Berry stressed that the pubs, rather than police, had chosen to close the pubs, saying: “Officers were quickly on the scene to deal with a number of alcohol related anti-social behaviour reports including a smashed window and minor assault.
“As a result four arrests were made by officers and we supported licensees who chose to close their own premises.”
But he added that he was grateful to “the majority of the public who acted responsibly throughout Saturday”.
In Essex, Special Inspector for Brentwood Steve Weaver, reported that an officer had made several arrests just moments after he had used a tweet to encourage people to “enjoy yourself” but “behave” and be “responsible”.
He posted: “That didn’t last long. Disturbance in Brentwood High street assisted other units. 4 people arrested.”
Devon and Cornwall Police said it had racked up more than 1,000 reports by 10pm on Saturday.
“The majority of reports this evening have been linked to drink-related disorder and anti-social behaviour,” a spokesperson said.
But one couple out in Manchester, Charlie and Sienna, told Sky News they had anticipated bars would be far busier.
“It’s much quieter than we were expecting,” they said.
“But it’s a really nice atmosphere and the bar we went to felt safe. We’d definitely feel reassured to go out again next weekend.”
And the national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said he believed as many as half of pubs had chosen not to reopen.
“I think it’s going to be difficult for pubs,” he said.
“They are opening up under uncertain circumstances. They don’t know if they’re going to get their customers back.
“What you are finding is, some of the pubs haven’t even bothered opening today – they want to see what’s going to happen.”
The caution around the relaxation among many was reflected by a new poll, which showed more than half of voters think the hospitality sector has been reopened too soon.
The Opinium survey indicated 52% believe outlets like pubs and restaurants are going back into business early, while 73% expect a second outbreak of COVID-19 this year.
It puts the government’s disapproval rating at 49% – with just 30% approving of its performance.
And the poll also found that 53% of people think the easing of the lockdown is happening too fast.
Adam Drummond, head of political polling at Opinium, said: “While the government may be keen to reopen, the public are looking ahead and with trepidation and aren’t expecting this release to be anything but temporary.”
Meanwhile, new quarantine exemptions will allow major sporting events, as well as TV and film productions, to go ahead this summer, the government has said.
Silverstone will be able to stage races in August, and the move gives the go-ahead for international cricket, Champions League and Europa League football, the PGA British Masters Championship and the World Snooker Championships to take place.
Also, significant darts, horse racing and other sporting events are expected to follow, ministers said.