The fear of a violent confrontation between the British National Party and anti-fascist protesters led one landlady to close her pub last night.
Farm machinery was placed across the car park of the Huntsman pub near Thornbury after landlady Kaye Thomas found out that the right-wing group had told people to meet there before going on to a local hotel.
Mrs Thomas was told on Friday that a group of BNP activists were due to meet in her car park before going to a secret fundraising dinner at the nearby Park Hotel, booked by a group calling itself the British Heritage Party. Anti-fascists found out about the dinner and more than 25 placard-waving protesters demonstrated outside Mrs Thomas' car park.
After being told about the protest Mrs Thomas, 46, and her husband Jim, 54, alerted the police and were advised to close their pub for the night.Now they are angry that up to £1,000 in takings may have been lost because of a gathering which they had no part in organising.
A BNP spokesman accused the protesters of being responsible for Mrs Thomas' loss of trade and of preventing the party from holding a legitimate meeting. But he would not confirm that the booking at the hotel had been made undercover for the BNP. No references to the British Heritage Party could be found on the internet when the Post searched it last night.
Mrs Thomas said: "I had no idea these people were planning to meet in my car park and I've had to close the pub for the night rather than risk any trouble. It's been an incredibly stressful couple of days, finding out that the pub's name is being mentioned in all these circles, and now it's lost me money. It's hard enough making a living at the moment without things like this happening."
Mike Jones, manager of the Park Hotel, also said the weekend had been a difficult time and that he had been advised by police to cancel the booking for the dinner.
He said: "We were certainly never aware the booking was made for the British National Party but the event was cancelled because of all the things which have been related to it. We didn't want to cause any problems and we also didn't want to breach our licence by being responsible for any kind of public order offences.
"The complaint I have is with the people who have been starting up the protest, creating rumours which aren't even true and sending us nasty emails. They're the ones who've caused all this trouble and it's been a bit of a nightmare for everyone involved."
Last night the protesters held a good-natured protest outside both the pub and the hotel and the planned meeting of BNP members failed to materialise.
Simon Darby, BNP spokesman, said: "There's a group of left-wing thugs threatening violence which has led to a fundraising dinner being cancelled and this poor woman from losing trade. We're in a run-up to an election, we're contesting every seat in the South West and we've every right to hold a meeting. This woman is a member of the community and incidents like this aren't fair on her, or us."
Bristol Evening Post