As England reached their first football tournament final in over 50 years last week, pubs in our region have been buoyed by an increase in trade after what has been a difficult period.

Venues across north Cumbria have experienced capacities larger than anything in over 18 months as the success of Gareth Southgate's side attracted customers in their droves to watch the games with friends and family.

Trish Bell, landlady at The Griffin pub stated that her venue has seen a real increase in trade as a result of the tournament.

"We were booked out, full to capacity for all the England games basically.

"It was great to see. The only slight issue was people booking tables and then not showing because we did have people wanting to come if they hadn't booked. It was a real contrast given that people have, at points seemed literally scared to come out. I found with the younger customers that they were that bit more excited but we had people just loving it as a social occasion.

"Perhaps in pervious times people had stayed in to just watch games in the tournaments on the TV but they realised it was a fantastic occasion to come to the pub, meet up with friends and see family."

One pub owner who runs a number of venues in the region stated: "There's no denying that the Euros have been areal boost at a really difficult time. If they had happened without any restrictions at all, we would have made more money because without standing room, vertical drinking, our capacity had been reduced. That said, it has just been such a massive boost."

The owner added that the midweek trade that their pubs have enjoyed during the period was a welcome return to previous form following a relatively fallow period.

She stated: "Filling the pub on a Tuesday or Wednesday night when it usually would be a bit dead is great. On Saturdays our trade is generally quite good but the impact was different as people come for the match but then filter out as soon as the match is finished whereas on Saturdays normally we would have had late night trade. Football fans wouldn't necessarily do that.

"There are different kinds of customers, so sometimes you will have people come out for a meal and a few drinks with a partner or friends and will socialised until quit elate on but with the football fans I find they will come for a couple of beers beforehand and a couple afterwards if the game has gone well, now if it hasn't!"

Margins for pubs are very small so these big nights with matches on, always make a big difference, she also explained. That said, she does reveal that welcoming customers back without restrictions will come as a relief.

"In all, I would say trade has been better than we would have had without them but, admittedly, not as good as they would be if we were trading freely."

"Sometimes we can't help looking at what it could have been. When we are filled to capacity in terms of our sitting area, we're probably only making half of what we would have in previous years with football nights with standing room."

"We're looking forward to people being able to move freely. The fact that people have to book tables, have to know that they are sitting down to come in puts some people off. It's particularly an issue in town and city centre pubs. People tend to go into town to go to two or three places on a bit of a pub crawl."

Mandy Picken, the landlady of The Sportsman Inn stated that she is looking forward to welcoming people back to the bar after a long period of restrictions. For her venue, the aim now will be ensuring trade continues on an upward curve.

She stated: "I'm pretty busy at the moment, customers do seem to be trickling back. I think over the coming weeks, when people are able to come to the bar and have that normal experience, people will feel really glad for that.

She does, however, warn that there may still be an overriding lack of confiecn for some customers due to the ongoing pandemic.

She said: "I feel that there might be a split in people coming out. I think we will have some people who are very excited but, of course, there will be people who are that bit more reserved.

"At The Sportsman, we have quite a unique situation in that we have quite a small venue but I can split tables up if people don't feel comfortable.

"I feel, though, that my regulars are very excited to sit together instead of sitting apart.

"I'm very excited to welcome people back to the bar and not have to turn people away because the pub is at maximum capacity."

Trish Bell, agrees that she feels the customers at The Griffin will view the situation similarly and asserts that pub owners may find that a lack of confidence may still be present for many.

She stated: I think it may take a while before that confidence is there again. I think it will eventually turn but it won't be instant.

That considered, she does admit that while she is feeling apprehensive, she feels excited for the future again following the boost of the trade during England's run to the final.

She said: "It was fantastic seeing everyone letting their hair down, particularly after the past 18 months which have been very challenging.

"Trade had been a little subdued beforehand and so it was nice to see everyone come out with smiles on their faces and enjoying the football.

We still had all the restrictions in place but if you kept reminding them of the situation it was manageable. Overall it was just so nice to see people having a good time.

Obviously, we're looking forward to it but we're still al little apprehensive. With the Delta variant and a lot of people isolating in the area, we do need to trad carefully.

She confirms that the steps she will be taking towards reopening fully will be a gradual process.

"We will still be mask friendly, still with tables distanced to a degree so people can get around the pub easily and not be too squashed together. So we're taking it step by step really and seeing what the reaction is for customers and gaining their feedback on things too.

She added: "We're keeping up our extensive cleaning schedules with hand sanitizer and that sort of thing.

We've seen so many ups and downs over the past 18 months so anything putting us back on our feet is absolutely marvellous. There's a lot across the industry that we need to get cracking on, with staff numbers dwindling too so we're just keeping an eye on everything.