Lake District hotel declares a eurozone for benefit of guests

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The Independent Online

Even the restaurant jokes were taking on a euro theme at the Miller Howe Hotel, overlooking Lake Windermere in Cumbria, this week. Charles Garside reminded the 70 diners who saw in the new year at his establishment: "All tips welcome but please don't dump your francs in the gratuity plates."

That's just the kind of continental sophistication you might expect in an area that gratefully received £64m of foreigners' money last year and which, if Mr Garside's efforts are successful, could become Britain's first eurozone.

Under the approving eye of the Cumbria Tourist Board (CTB), Mr Garside is brokering a euro trade scheme by which up to 2,000 small local businesses that have never accepted foreign currency will be given the chance to take the euro without risk of commission charges or having to open a euro bank account.

If a German wants to leave a €5 expression of customer satisfaction at the English Lakes Hotel or a Spaniard can only find a pastel-coloured €20 note to procure the Queen's Hotel's commendable all-day breakfast (£3.95 in the old money), they should be able to say yes, hand the currency over to Mr Garside and get the sterling equivalent.

Mr Garside is an avowed European, having edited the now defunct weekly publication The European for six years, and will happily use the cash across the Channel himself. If there's a glut of it, the money will be used to settle up with his Italian, Spanish and French wine suppliers.

The fiscal republic of Cumbria has coined the name of "Cueuro" for its project, details of which are being circulated to all CTB members. Mr Garside has actually been doing something rather like it for the four years he's been in the hotel business, by accepting gratuities in dollars. Their disposal has always made a pretty good excuse for American holidays.

If small hoteliers get carried away and flood him with the new currency, he'll call in the banks to help. Sensing the business opportunity, they are already standing by.

For Windermere, still desperately trying to rebuild after last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic, the Cueuro is "fundamentally about offering a warm welcome and being able to say 'yes' to something guests may want to do," Mr Garside said yesterday. "We're not great believers in long lists of 'Do Nots', around here.

"Many locals are dubious about the euro but it's about business, not politics. If it means good business they'll do it," he added.

In Windermere village, not everyone was quite so optimistic. Mike Miller, of the Windermere filling station, confessed to having technology for nothing but sterling, Scottish and Irish notes

The advent of Cueuro also had Jess McLoughlin, owner of the Queen's, fretting about her sterling weighing machines, not to mention the thought of rechalking all her menu boards.

But the tourist board said its members were sophisticated in international trade and would cope. "We are used to welcoming people from all over the world," said its spokesman.

Euro new in brief

¿ Irish police urged businesses to remain alert for counterfeit euro banknotes despite two false alarms. The notes, of €5 and €10 value, given to police in Co Cavan, were analysed and found to be genuine.

But the authorities warned people who worked with cash to remain vigilant after a €10 note, spent at a Co Kildare supermarket, was confirmed as fake. The forged note was exposed when a shopper spotted it in her change in Straffan. It had been produced on a photocopier and washed to make it look genuine.

¿ A French pensioner asked to change 1.8m francs (£170,000) in cash into euros at a bank in Amiens. The 69-year-old woman presented clerks with a bag stuffed with 500-franc notes she had hoarded at home.

¿ Within minutes of receiving her first pension payment in euros, an Italian tried to get rid of it by handing over €600 (£370) for a 75-cent cappuccino and demanding the change in lire. The waiter at the café in Jesi, in central Italy, "kindly but firmly" refused.

¿ United Nations police in Kosovo urged people to destroy thousands of fake euro notes distributed by a newspaper. The full-size, full-colour samples were apparently intended to show people what the new currency looked like.

¿ A 67-year-old Italian housewife dropped a single, bright euro coin in the collection basket during Mass and gave another to a beggar outside the church in Novara. Later she realised she had given away only two euro cents. "I hope God will forgive me because it was done in good faith," she said.

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