Welsh pubs in 'state of limbo' without reopening timeframe

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Unlocking Wales: the Welsh Government is taking a cautious approach to lifting restrictions amid new European lockdowns ((image: Getty/travellinglight)
Unlocking Wales: the Welsh Government is taking a cautious approach to lifting restrictions amid new European lockdowns ((image: Getty/travellinglight)

Related tags: Wales, Welsh pubs, Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Beer

Welsh pub operators have described feeling left in the dark without sector reopening dates.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has been hesitant to provide a reopening date, suggesting the Government may be able to consider reopening outdoor hospitality at the end of April.

Pubs and restaurants will be given a “reliable date” at a point when “the public health position is safe enough for us to do so,” Drakeford said.

The nation was not “immune” to experiencing the same accelerating case numbers experienced by several European nations that have been plunged into fresh lockdowns, the politician said.

For many operators, the lack of clarity has left them unable to recruit staff, fearful of running out of cash and losing trade to their more reassured English counterparts.

Operator Lara Joslin runs the Kings Head in Gower and said she had no idea when she would be able to reopen. 

In the dark

“We feel like we don’t know anymore," Joslin told The Morning Advertiser (MA).​ "We are completely in the dark.”

“The worst thing is being different to England because a lot of our clientele are from England and they want to come down and stay,” Joslin added. 

How will Wales exit lockdown?

  • A 'stay at home' diktat was lifted 13 March, with Welsh residents now told to 'stay local'. 
  • Four people from two households can now meet outdoors to socialise, including in private gardens.
  • Hairdressers and barbers are open. 
  • All non-essential retail will be able to open from 12 April.
  • If virus numbers continue to drop, the 'stay local' message will be removed on 27 March and self-accommodated holiday stays will be permitted.
  • The Government reviews lockdown measures every three weeks, meaning the next review is due before 2 April.

The King’s Head has experienced English tourists cancelling bookings in favour of English venues, which have a provisional reopening date.

“We're losing out now because people don't want to wait as they are so desperate to go out. I bet Cornwall and Devon will be fully booked,” Joslin added. 

Joslin does not want to open her 27 bedrooms without the pub also being open. “People want the whole experience, not just to sit in their rooms,” she added.

While the Welsh Government has announced an extra cash injection of up to £150m with grants of up to £5k available, operators are awaiting further details of this support.

Recruitment woes

Operators like Joslin are struggling with ongoing costs including employer contributions to the furlough scheme and rent.

The pub has struggled to recruit new staff ahead of its reopening as they cannot give candidates a start date. “They don't want to commit,” Joslin explained.

Boss Brewing co-founder Sara John told The MA ​without a reopening date for her pub customers, her brewery had “nothing to work towards,” and risked wasting beer.

"As an industry, we desperately need some sort of roadmap so that we can plan, and so that we can also see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel," she said.

John is also awaiting a date so it can begin recruiting a new bar manager for its Swansea bar.

Setting us behind

“How can we begin the hiring process without a start date? We’re still in this state of limbo which is setting us behind our counterparts over the border,” John added.

She said: “England has a roadmap. Scotland has a roadmap. Where’s ours?”

Chief executive of the Welsh Beer & Pub Association Emma McClarkin said businesses needed hope and a “clear pathway” to resuming trade.

“Hundreds of brewing and pub businesses across Wales are desperate for a roadmap with dates on when they can re-open,” she explained.

“Our sector supports thousands of jobs in communities across Wales. Pubs and brewers have suffered through the lockdown and the ongoing cost is enormously high.”

Related topics: Legislation

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