I am not an anxious person, even if I can be quick to react in some situations, I can usually think through and look at the positives. The news earlier this week enforcing further restrictions for hospitality in Wales, unsettled me. The more I have heard and read, the more apprehensive I have become.
For those who don’t know, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, announced new rules for hospitality, which will be reviewed on the 16th December 2020. Pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 6pm. After this time, they can offer takeaway services. Absolutely no alcohol can be served during opening hours. Plus, indoor entertainment such as visitor attractions, cinemas, museums and galleries have to shut.
These changes have sent ripples of fear and frustration throughout the country. The hospitality sector has adapted and stuck to the rules each and every time they have been amended, at the expense of the business too. They have had to buy PPE for all of their staff, additional cleaning materials, sanitiser by the bucket load, dividers and screens, and they have had to pay for other print materials and signage. Not to mention the time spent working out spacing and sorting walkways.
The First Minister said that firms hit by the restrictions would be offered “the most generous package of financial assistance anywhere in the UK.” Then why are businesses closing? Every time I flick through my social media, I see another prominent Welsh company shutting up shop.
The Forty-Four Group in South Wales who run successful eateries such as Bar 44 and Asador 44 released a statement saying they are closing. In the announcement, it said that 50% of their sales are from alcohol, and with reduced seating due to the 2-metre rule, they would be running at a loss.
The Welsh pub giant, Brains, are also closing more than 100 of their pubs. “It is with a very heavy heart that we have made the decision to close our doors from 6pm this Friday, 4th December and will not be reopening until further notice. Remaining open during the new restrictions is not a viable option.” They are so nervous that the regulations would not be lifted by Christmas Day, they are refunding everyone who has booked, so they have enough time to find somewhere else.
Welcome to Prohibition
It is not only the pubs, bars and restaurants that have been impacted but the supply chain also. Glamorgan Brewing Company in Llantrisant is having to pour 325 casks down the drain, around 30,000-40,000 pints. Some of it will be sold in their brewery shop. Production, as always, started in the summer, and the expiry dates are doubtful to last the enforced draught.
I feel so much safer popping to the pub for a pint, or going out to eat, that I do in a supermarket. For months I have been doing Click and Collect for my weekly shop. I had so many un-nerving experiences doing the weekly food shop, with people reaching over me, being rammed by trolleys, people getting impatient and “cutting in” when I have been in the aisles.
I do feel that the restrictions are unfair, and will have a far more detrimental effect with people gathering and drinking elsewhere, following no social distancing. If it continues, I can see us regressing to the 1920s with our own speakeasies nearly 100 years on. Make sure you start practising the secret knock to get in or learn the password, “Mae Drakeford yn pen pidyn!”
Christmas is Cancelled
December was the month that many hoped to recuperate some of the loss of earnings from this year. The food and beverage team where I work have spent so much time figuring out how we could hold festive gatherings safely. All of that was undone by one announcement. I have since spent the week updating the website, and amending social media – when my time could have been spent elsewhere.
I have had several conversations this week with people who didn’t realise that furlough was still a thing. I have been on furlough since the original lockdown, and I am currently working 16 hours from home. My company is doing all it can to safeguard jobs, but when the scheme ends in 4 months – what then? There are 100 people in the Cardiff hotel where I work alone, relying on people to travel, eat out, get married or hold a business conference.
Traveller figures are still significantly down, and when the restrictions to food and drink were announced, there was an influx of cancellations. At the moment, no one is holding conferences, which is a massive revenue stream to hotels, and weddings receptions are still banned. (This blog post doesn’t even touch the sides of what’s going on in the wedding and events industry either… no gigs for singers/bands, no venues being decorated, no cakes being baked or doves being released!)
Ba Humbug to you, Mr Drakeford!
Before anyone mentions it, people’s safety is important to me. I do not want anyone to get this virus, let alone friends and family. I do think that by being careful, we can have a pint or a meal out – and enjoy some kind of normality. I have only been out a handful of times myself, but it now feels like a luxury treat.
I genuinely can’t get my head around the new rules and fear many good places simply won’t survive until spring. So, if you’re in Wales, where you can please eat out, buy a coffee, order a takeaway or buy gift vouchers for Christmas. Also, check-in on those you know who work in the hospitality and tourism industry, they will appreciate your support.
Sending love and strength to everyone in these uncertain times.