There's still a place in Britain so dry that you have to take the train to buy a drink on Sunday

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The Independent Online
The last "dry" area of Wales is about to succumb to Sunday drinking. After more than 30 years of closed doors, the 60-odd pubs in the Dwyfor district around Porthmadog will be freed from the non-alcoholic confines of the Sabbath.

For the moment, however, the judicious drinker who prefers to leave the car at home has to take the train. Local people have been known to be so desperate for a drink that they have even resorted to a trip on the licensed Ffestiniog railway among the crowds of tourists.

The ban was imposed by the 1964 Licensing Act which prohibited the sale of alcohol throughout Wales. But the Act provided for area polls every seven years to decide between "wet" and "dry" status as long as at least 500 electors have signed a petition. One by one the bans have been swept away.

That beer and dominoes effect left the North Wales area of Dwyfor as the last bastion of Sunday sobriety, but next month, it will almost certainly fall.

The Seven-Day Opening Council and all-Wales body, secured the necessary signatures to trigger a poll in Dwyfor. And thanks to local government reorganisation, the voters of "wet" Arfon and Meirionnydd will be entitled to vote; Dwyfor's 1989 vote of 5,951 to 4,563 in favour of staying "dry" is certain to be swallowed up.

Roger Jones, landlord of the Golden Fleece in Tremadog, has had to turn away thirsty visitors ever since he took over the pub 22 years ago. "It's as difficult to get a Sunday drink here as it is in Saudi Arabia. Tourists are bewildered - they rightly expect to be able to pop in for a pint every day of the week" he said.

Porthmadog, a little seaside town is barely a mile inside the alcohol exclusion zone. Mike Morris, manager of the Australia Inn is used to watching the cavalcade of cars carrying potential customers to "wet" Penrhyndeudraeth. "We lose a fortune in the summer," he said ruefully.

A poll may also be held in the Rhondda Cynon Taff district, for long a "wet" area, where 500 "drys" have lodged a petition. Last night, council officials were still checking the documentation. "We have to make sure everything is watertight and that will take us into next week" a council spokesman said.

The cost of each poll is put at around pounds 50,000, a statistic which outrages David Baird-Murray, a Llandrindod Wells hotelier who chairs the Seven Day Opening Council. "We believe that whoever is behind the petition is behaving irresponsibly. The cost would have to come out of the local authority's coffers - it would be a sheer waste of public money" he said.