THE news that Wiltshire is in Tier Two when lockdown ends on Wednesday is the worst outcome for the county’s pubs, hotels, restaurant and cafes, some of whom say it is now going to be a “very tough” winter.

Mark Hodges, landlord of the Tollgate Inn at Holt, said: “It’s going to be an absolute nightmare. It’s the worst possible tier to be in.

“It means we can only open if people can be served substantial meals. People won’t be able to come in just for a drink.

“It’s going to be a very tough winter. It has probably destroyed about 90 per cent of our Christmas bookings.

“We won’t know exactly how much food to order, because we won’t know how many customers we will get.

“We’ll have to open because other pubs will and that means we’ll have to pay for electric, gas and staff costs.

“No household mixing will be allowed indoors except for business meetings, so, that takes out all the Christmas bookings.

“Groups of up to six people will be allowed to meet outside, and we’ve put up a heated marquee in the car park where people can sit and eat.

“We’ll lose half the drinking trade and a lot of the meals trade because people can’t mix households indoors.”

In Tier Two, pubs, cafes and restaurants will have to call last orders at 10pm and must close by 11pm.

One Wiltshire hotelier warned that thousands of university students returning home for Christmas could help spread Covid-19 if they go out celebrating.

James Sullivan-Tailyour, owner of The White Swan Hotel in Bradford on Avon, said: “My big fear is all the university students coming back home from Wednesday.

“If the government is going to allow huge swathes of pubs to open on December 3 all the university students are going to go out for one last drink before going home to see their parents and all their old school mates.

“Somehow, they’ve got to allow the students to get home safely and not to let them go out binge drinking at parties before they go home. I think it’s a really big issue and I am wondering how the government is going to manage that.”

Neil Glasspool, co-owner of The Rising Sun at Bowden Hill, Lacock, who was offering takeaways to customers during lockdown, said his objective now is to survive until March. “We all have to abide by the government guidelines and keep on surviving until we come out the other side.

“We have only been open for four months out of the last 12, as we only took over the pub on March 13, ten days before the first lockdown. I am confident we can survive but people don’t come to a country pub like ours to get drunk.”

Chris Whyte, 58, the owner of the 24-bedroomed Beechfield House country house hotel at Beanacre, said he has been working with a skeleton staff of just five staff to survive the lockdown, instead of the 35-40 he normally employs.

“It’s all about sentiment and confidence. It’s about whether the public want to go out.”

Mr Whyte has taken no Christmas party bookings and has decided to close for Christmas and the New Year. “We just can’t switch things on and off,” he added.

On Tuesday, Wiltshire Council leader Philip Whitehead said he was confident the Government would put the county into the right tier, based on evidence.

Liberal Democrat leader Ian Thorn had called for Wiltshire to be placed in the lowest tier post-lockdown.

In his letter, Cllr Thorn said that the Christmas period would be make or break for local businesses adding that those in hospitality, tourism and retail had taken a big hit from the second lockdown.

Coun Whitehead said he was not prepared to risk public health if Wiltshire were to enter a tier with tighter measures.

He said: “It is essential that at the ending of lockdown we go into the tier that we should go into, given the evidence base at the time. To wish to be in Tier One would not be sensible if it were not the correct tier for our infection rate.”

“To ignore the data at the time would be to put the health of the residents of Wiltshire at risk and although you seem to be suggesting this, I am not prepared to do it.”

On the impact to businesses, he said he was very aware of the financial impact of this month’s measures.

“This would have been significantly worse had the Conservative Government not put together the most generous and creative support package to help businesses to work their way through those difficulties,” he said.

“In Wiltshire, we paid out more than £96m to more than 8,000 businesses for the first lockdown and have already paid out more than £590,000 to businesses this time.”

Cllr Whitehead agreed with Cllr Thorn that Wiltshire’s low rates of infection were down to the efforts made by its residents.

“Wiltshire Council will continue to make all efforts to support Wiltshire residents in minimising the rate of infection across Wiltshire and we expect to follow government guidance to enter the correct tier based entirely on the evidence base for Wiltshire,” Cllr Whitehead said.

“The infection rate in recent weeks has been significantly higher than we would have liked, albeit from a low base.

“We have stated publicly that we have continued to be concerned about this and that our expectation would have been to be in a higher tier by now had we not gone into a second lockdown.”