Darren Adam 1am - 4am
England's revellers seen crowding outside pubs for reopening - despite warnings
4 July 2020, 18:35
Thousands of people in England were seen flouting social distancing rules this evening as they flocked to pubs for the first time in months after they reopened.
Only around half of the country's pubs have decided to reopen due to the difficult trading atmosphere caused by Covid-19.
Nonetheless, hundreds of people were seen in London alone queueing to get inside the open pubs. But pictures this evening show large crowds gathered in the street ignoring social distancing rules.
Boris Johnson yesterday warned customers "don't let us down" as he urged them to maintain social distancing. Locations including Battersea and Borough Market in London saw large crowds gathered with little or no social distancing in place.
Scenes in Battersea saw dozens of people congregating in the street and enjoying a "takeaway pint" in large groups directly outside one pub.
Pubs on Portobello Road in Notting Hill started filling up from midday.
Large groups of people centred around 2 pubs in Battersea. Asked an employee of one of the pubs whether they were selling them to drink on the street. Employee said “we’re selling them to takeaway” @LBCNews | @LBC pic.twitter.com/T75BWKak7Q— James Gooderson (@JamesGooderson) July 4, 2020
People are set to drink 15million pints, experts predicted. There are fears pub-revellers will fail to stick to the rules and keep a metre apart from one another as the night goes on.
Accident and Emergency departments are preparing for a surge of alcohol-related accidents and are setting up tents outside hospitals to keep people socially distanced as they wait.
But rain and drizzle could dampen the spirts of people returning to pubs and restaurants. Pubs in Wales and Scotland must remain closed until later this month as the countries lift their lockdowns more slowly.
West Midlands Labour police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said police are "praying for rain" as pubs and clubs stage a cautious reopening.
He added: "The Chief Constable and I often meet in the summer, we often have a discussion about the weekends.
"It is the case that when the weather is inclement, the problems we have are somewhat reduced.
"So we are praying for rain this Saturday."
In an incident in Kent, a pub managed to open despite a car crashing into its front in the early hours.
The Swan Inn at Little Chart, near Ashford in Kent, will still be able to serve pints to customers outside despite the landlord being woken by the devastation at around 2am on Saturday.
Ray Perkins said: "It was absolutely devastating because obviously we were opening today.
"We've had everybody rally round and clear up the bar, every single glass has had to be washed again."
He added: "We've got open, we've managed to open the pub - not inside, only outside."
Mr Perkins said he was "absolutely gutted" and "exhausted" by the incident, but was determined to open up for his customers.