Despite sporadic reports of drunken revelry in town and city centres, many publicans reported a quieter than normal Saturday night as 15 weeks of lockdown was finally lifted.
Lancashire Police, who put extra patrols on in expectation of a New Year’s Eve scale boozy Saturday, reported only having to deal with “the usual number” of drink-related incidents throughout the day and night as the long-awaited return to pub life arrived.
And A&E departments were as busy as always dealing with people who had overdone things on the first night back.
But overall the number of drinkers out on the town was considerably down on a regular weekend, according to relieved bar staff.
“To be honest it was quite pleasant,” said a member of staff at the Wetherspoon’s pub The Grey Friar in Preston. “It was steady and manageable. Everyone behaved themselves and it was a good night.
“But it was not as busy as a normal Saturday, not by a long way. It wasn’t what we would expect for a weekend.
“Our customers conformed to the new regulations and understood the situation. It went very well.”
The wet weather clearly had a dampening effect on the turnout. One barman admitted: “If this had been a warm, sunny evening then it might have been different.”
But a reluctance by some people to resume their social lives in busy bars also had an impact.
A survey nationally has revealed more than half of adults think the hospitality sector has re-opened too soon with Covid-19 still out there.
The poll by Opinium also said 73 per cent of the population expect there to be a second outbreak later this year as a result of the rules being relaxed so soon.
The picture in Lancashire was not reflected in some parts of the country where drinkers were up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to make up for lost time.
And by the end of the day some were incapable of obeying social distancing rules.
Pictures of crowded streets in places like London’s Soho raised fears that there will soon be a second spike with the virus far from eradicated.
In London’s Old Compton Street one store owner described the atmosphere on Saturday night as “out of control.”
In Nottinghamshire some pubs decided to close early due to alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.
The chairman of the Police Federation John Apter said: “What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t or won’t socially distance.”
Some pubs and bars in Lancashire decided to delay their re-opening until after the weekend to allow the situation to calm down.
It is estimated drinkers in England downed 15m pints during Saturday alone.