PUB and bar owners in Romsey and Test Valley have revealed employing staff has been "an absolute nightmare" as England eases out of the third national lockdown.

Punters have flocked to beer gardens to enjoy a long-awaited pint after businesses were allowed to reopen for outdoor service from April 12.

But, although business owners have welcomed customers back with open arms, some fear they won't be able to employ enough staff to keep up with the demand.

From May 17, drinkers should be allowed indoors again for the first time in months, which could pile on the pressure for the hospitality industry.

The landlord of The Boot Inn in Houghton, Craig Doyle, said employing staff has been frustrating amid the pandemic, while stressing the unpredictable weather has been another challenge.

He explained: "Employing staff has been an absolute nightmare. We have given up now posting adverts on Indeed and other sites, because people are not turning up for interviews - that has happened on several occasions.

"I think because people have gone home it has made things harder, but the weather is the biggest factor at the moment and I know I wouldn't want to sit out there right now.

"My Bedouin tent nearly took off on Sunday and last week was a bit of a washout, so I think every business wants to get back inside again."

Mr Doyle added, once pubs are allowed to serve customers indoors again, it is unlikely he will continue outdoor service - unless he can strike a deal with some "street food" businesses.

One of the owners of Romsey's coffee and wine bar, Cork & Bean, said employing enough staff has been particularly difficult amid the coronavirus crisis.

Simon Foster explained: "I saw an article on the BBC which said, because some people are still on furlough, hospitality staff are harder to get hold of and that is happening with us.

"We have quite a fluid team, because students are focusing on their A-Levels and degrees and some Europeans went back home because of coronavirus."

Mr Foster added their wine is being delivered "a bit slower" than usual, believing it is due to Brexit.

However, the business owner stressed he is not worried about Cork & Bean running out of alcohol after it was reported in The Guardian some London pubs had allegedly sold out of beer.