Coronavirus: No laughing matter for Blackpool as tourist mecca adapts to Tier 3 lockdown
17 October 2020, 21:34 | Updated: 17 October 2020, 22:41
If you had to sum up the feeling in Blackpool this weekend, "weariness" would probably cover it.
At midnight on Saturday, Blackpool, its businesses and residents entered the highest level of local lockdown: Tier 3.
The seaside town so famous for its illuminations now has another message in lights: "Spread Kindness, Not the Virus," a brightly-lit sign told visitors on the Promenade.
A welcome, tinged with warning.
Pubs that don't serve food and bars have been shut outright, as they have across Lancashire.
But businesses that have been allowed to stay open don't have it much easier.
Jen Gleeson and her husband Ryan run a comedy club in the centre of town.
"We'll keep going, until we just can't," she tells me, adding: "But it is just a nightmare."
The club spent weeks getting itself COVID-secure, but with reduced capacity - and now fewer visitors expected because of the new restrictions - they are just clinging on.
"We're expecting a circuit-breaker lockdown too at some point," Jen says.
"We have shows planned and customers booked in and they are ringing us to see if we are going to be open and we don't know and we can't get guidance yes or no either way.
"It pushes us into a position where we don't know if we're going be able to provide a livelihood for our staff," Ryan told us, "let alone ourselves and keep our business going.
"It's very, very stressful at the moment."
It feels like an understatement.
Much of Blackpool relies on tourism, but overnight stays have been discouraged for people travelling in and out of Tier 3.
On Saturday, the people we saw were mainly day-trippers, making the most of a dry, mild Saturday.
B&Bs; and hotels have had weeks' worth of booking cancelled overnight.
"It's going to hurt, absolutely," Alan Cavill, the town council's director of tourism, says.
"The last two weeks of October is what sees most businesses here through the winter.
"There is certainly going to be redundancies and there is certainly going to be business failures."
Like Merseyside, Lancashire's local leaders have to find a balance: A compromise between the economy and public health.
Dave Nicholls, one of dozens of council-employed COVID marshals that we saw out on Saturday, is sure they've made the right choice.
"It's getting daft now with people coming to Blackpool who shouldn't be here to start with," he says.
"When we first went into lockdown back in March I did eight weeks on COVID ambulance cleaning and it was not a pretty sight to see. I don't want to see that again in Blackpool."
For Dave, this feels personal. He has elderly parents, he says, who made it through the first wave.
These restrictions, he says, may save them through the next.
Another 16,171 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the UK on Saturday, with 150 more deaths.
The total number of positive cases nationwide now stands at 705,428, according to government figures.