Revellers in Eastbourne crowded in to the town's pubs and clubs to escape the cold and welcome in the new year.

Hundreds of partygoers lined the town's nightspots with pubs laying on fancy dress and themed parties to herald the start of 2002.

Stephen Hartley, licensee of the Gildredge pub in Terminus Road, said: "We had made the theme for this year a Hawaiian night but because of the cold weather not many people were wearing shirts.

"The police said we were the busiest pub in Eastbourne on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve was much the same."

More than 150 customers flocked to the ticket-only celebration which stayed open beyond midnight.

Despite pubs being given free reign on closing time many did not stay open past normal extended licensing hours.

Mr Hartley said: "It gives competition to the clubs which stay open late, but I don't think many of them wanted to stay open much longer."

Ambulances and police vans were on stand-by in the centre of the town and fireworks were let off throughout the night.

Andrew Wilkes, 34, had travelled from Nottingham to spend New Year's Eve in Eastbourne with friends.

He said: "Just because it isn't the millennium it doesn't mean you should write it off. A lot of people I know aren't really interested in celebrating anymore because they did it all two years ago.

"I have a lot of friends in Eastbourne and we do the South Street Shuffle, going from pub to pub along Grove Road and South Street. I think we're going on to a club but we'll probably give up about 1am and get a kebab."

Like Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne was bereft of any central public attraction but pubs and clubs reported terrific trade.

The Goose pub opposite Debenhams was choc-a-block while other pubs and bars which reported brisk trade were the Hogshead pub near the railway station and La Surfera in Sovereign Harbour.

Bosses at Kings Nightclub said the venue was filled to its 770 capacity by 10.30pm with revellers who had bought tickets for £10 a head.

General manager Mike Gilman said: "This was my first New Year's Eve at Kings and it proved that the people of Eastbourne sure know how to party.

"It was a truly wicked night and if it was anything to go by, I'm sure 2002 will be a great year for us."

At TJ's Nightclub, a huge queue snaked its way up past the entrance to Debenhams as people waiting to file in were buffeted by biting winds.

Again the venue, in Terminus Road, was filled to capacity by party-goers, including dancer Jo Hook, 19, who said: "It was a great night but I'm starting to regret it this morning."

The pier proved to be a popular destination with hundreds of clubbers seeing the morning in at the Atlantis nightclub.

Leanne Hughes, 19, spent the night on crutches after tripping and breaking her leg.

She said: "It won't stop me having fun though. The club has a great atmosphere and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves."

Promotions manager for the club Andrew Hale, 32, from Eastbourne, said Atlantis had been full to capacity with 870 people packed inside.

He said: "It was a great night. Everyone enjoyed themselves and there were no problems from anyone. The bars sold out twice and had to be re-stocked. The staff had a good time as well as the customers."

As midnight struck, Eastbourne town centre was deserted but for a few hardy party-goers swathed in warm scarves clutching beer bottles and cans.

In Hastings, party-goers packed the main town centre pubs including the newly-opened £1.6 million John Logie Baird, Yates' and Trader Jacks.

Publicans said the sub-zero temperatures had buoyed trade by driving people into their bars from the frozen streets.

Clubs, including the Crypt and G-Spot, were full to capacity with revellers, who spilled out onto the streets as midnight struck to herald the new year.

Taxi firms also reported a roaring trade as people chose not to walk home while police said the evening had passed off peacefully.

Police reported a few anti-social incidents but said the evening had passed off without major incident.