UP to 20 pubs in Barrow, Dalton and Ulverston could close as a result of coronavirus, an industry leader has said.

Pubs were ordered to close two weeks ago as part of stringent rules aimed at slowing the spread of the deadly disease.

With the industry already facing tough times the enforced closure could well be the final nail in the coffin for many.

As experts speculate the lockdown could continue until June, those with limited cash reserves are unlikely to survive, a key industry figure has warned.

“It will finish off a lot of pubs,” Lancaster Brewery owner Phil Simpson said.

“Best case scenario you’re looking at around 10 per cent; but I suspect it will be in the region of 20 to 30 per cent.”

Mr Simpson, who has a combined 50 years’ experience alongside his business partner Matt Jackson, welcomed the government’s support for struggling business amid the pandemic but said it would come too late for many.

“The reason for that is the length of time it will take to access the financial support from the government,” he said. “You’re looking at four to six weeks to access it and unless you’ve got cash in the bank you just won’t be able to wait that long.”

Mr Simpson, who owns the Duke of Edinburgh in Barrow and The Mill in Ulverston, said he has had to place between 90 to 95 per cent of his workforce on furlough leave.

“Our business will be fine because we’ve got those cash reserves but pubs have been struggling for a while and tenants simply don’t have cash saved up,” he added.

“Landlords are going to need cash in the bank to get through this. This is all about cash - if you’ve got enough cash to keep going then you’ll be fine. But if cash is tight then this is a nightmare - you’ve still got all your bills to pay.”

The Duke of Edinburgh in Abbey Road re-opened yesterday, as it also provides accommodation, but strict rules are in place restricting a venue’s operation.

The venue is fully booked, understood to be as a result of shipyard-related guests.

Food and drink can only be consumed in a guest’s room and increased cleaning procedures must be put in place.

Mr Simpson, whose brewery supplies around 20,000 pints a week to other venues, revealed some venues have attempted to place orders despite the ban.

“They’re calling themselves speakeasies,” he added.

“We’ve refused to supply them but it’s obvious people are getting desperate.”

A speakeasy is an illicit establishment that sells alcohol. Such establishments came into prominence in the United States during the Prohibition era.