THE co-owner of a Horwich brewery is urging the government to allow Bolton’s pubs to reopen before he is forced to pour his beer down the drain.

With 26 places in England now having a higher infection rate than Bolton did when its pubs were first forced to close earlier this month, Wayne Roper, of Blackedge Brewing Company, has been left frustrated by the local restrictions which has led to a huge drop in revenue and the re-furloughing of staff.

“You just can’t get your head around what they are thinking at the moment,” said Wayne, who also operates the Brewery Tap in Westhoughton. “During lockdown we were in a decent position as we were able to manage a delivery service that kept the wolf from the door because we were getting cash in every week.

“Post-lockdown we were way down on revenue because a lot of pubs hadn’t quite opened up yet but sales were gradually picking up and we weren’t losing money.

“Then they decided to close the Bolton pubs which provide 50 per cent of our revenue - it was a borough-wide lockdown but we were six miles away from where the peak infections were.”

Before lockdown the brewery was producing 25-30 barrels a week and brewing three times every seven days.

This week however, there will be no mashing of hops and the company’s chief brewer will be put on furlough.

Wayne said: “The worst thing is we actually took out a bounce back loan and continued with our expansion plans.

“We have new kit arriving on Monday and there’s no one to use it and no need to use it.

“The beer will keep for a few weeks but if it has been in the cold store for four weeks we wouldn’t really want to be selling it because then pubs might hang on to the barrels and they’ll have problems dispensing it.

“For the last two weeks it has felt like the government is flim-flamming which has meant even the pubs that aren’t in Bolton won’t buy beer because they’re worried they might be closed down the next day.”

Blackedge marked its tenth anniversary this year with the Brewery Tap recently turning one year old, but Wayne sees little reason to celebrate.

“It’s tricky,” he said. “The huge problem for us at the moment is the lack of enforcement on travel and people going in and out of Bolton.

“Rather than come to our bars and order takeaway if you live in Westhoughton you can just jump in a taxi and go to Leigh or Wigan. If you’re in Bromley Cross you can nip to Darwen or Ramsbottom and where we are in Horwich you walk into Adlington where all the pubs are open.

Three weeks on from restrictions being imposed, Wayne is hoping the 10pm curfew can be brought in - otherwise the future looks bleak.

“We were one of the responsible bars that took out a load of seating and provided table service,” he added. “People were coming in because they felt comfortable and it was well managed. For us that hour is not a massive issue but for me they’ve just taken us back 20 years to when the streets were unmanageable and everyone was being let out at the same time.”