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Members of Caerphilly’s hospitality industry have called on Welsh Government to show them the evidence that supports banning alcohol at venues across Wales.
On Monday, November 30, the government announced that pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will no longer be allowed to serve alcohol and must close by 6pm.
The new restrictions come into effect from 6pm on Friday, December 4.
In February, the Fisherman’s Rest in Bedwas was devastated by flooding during Storm Dennis in February before it underwent a large refurbishment.
Landlord Jonny Harris told Caerphilly Observer the latest restrictions make no sense: “If there was any data to back it up then I would welcome any restrictions to combat the virus, but this type of announcement is clearly evidencing how detached from reality decision makers are.
“I have spent a lot of money making the pub as safe as the regulators wished. I have lost a lot of money putting in place these restrictions by limited tables and asking customers to leave at 10pm.
“From the figures I can find, these measures are completely unjustified. Pubs cannot sell alcohol, but you can buy it in a shop. Thinking these restrictions will not fuel meetings at home is deluded.
“Flooding was something I could deal with as it was clear and without ambiguity. The initial lockdown required a new plan to keep going. ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ kick-started the business, but then getting slammed with many new restrictions, at great cost, keep sending us back to square one.
“From a business perspective it is another nail in the coffin for small pubs. I know that other local pubs will be closing this weekend. Revenue will drop in a catastrophic way.
“Making a profit does not figure in my daily plan. Covering the costs and supporting my team is the sole focus. I fully support measures to control the virus but back up data and common sense needs to be applied.”
Disillusionment with the decision is also shared by Mair Arthur, who will close the White Cross pub in Groeswen on Friday as she does not serve food:
“Show us the evidence, why are you tarring us all with the same brush? I don’t understand where they are coming from.
“We have abided by every restriction and we haven’t had a single case of Covid in the pub. We do everything in our power to make it as secure as possible.
“Here we are now coming up to Christmas and we cannot serve alcohol. We do not do food, so what’s the point staying open?
“This pub is at the heart of the community. We have a knitting group, a walking group and it is an important part of people’s lives. This is a community pub that really matters to people especially at this time of year when a lot of people are alone.
“A pub is about a lot more than alcohol, it’s about friendship and community. I do not think the government understands that. Some people do not understand the value for people who live alone. The pub is their vital point of contact.
“To me it feels that we are all being persecuted for the actions of the few. No two pubs are the same and it is unfair to compare us to a national chain or a pub in a city centre.
“This is a small pub with a big heart. It is so important to so many people and that is being ignored.”
Pubs and restaurants are not the only businesses that fear the impact of further restrictions. For food and drink suppliers, December is traditionally the busiest month of the year.
Hallets Cider in Hafodyrynys lost £75,000 between March and July.
Ann Hallet, who has run the business from her family farm since 2006, said a further loss of earnings in the lead up to Christmas puts the entire business at risk:
“I don’t know if we are going to survive, there’s only so much time we can tread water for.
“We sell the majority of our cider to wholesale food and drink distributors and breweries across the UK, so we have been hit first by the lockdown in England and now these restriction in Wales.
“My heart sank yesterday because it is back to the disaster it was during the full lockdown. Everything has just collapsed.
“So far, we have had no help whatsoever, because we are a family run farm-based business who just pay ourselves when we can.
“Every time grants are announced, I get my hopes up, but every time we fail because we just don’t meet the support criteria.
“It is family-run businesses like us that do not employ other people, who are at risk. There is black hole for businesses that run from home where the sole income is the family business.
“It is disappointing that governments just do not seem to want to acknowledge that. They are allowing family businesses to be destroyed.”
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On Tuesday, December 1, Mark Drakeford said there were no easy decisions and that it was made after viewing the success of tier three restrictions in England and Scotland where the virus transmission rate has dropped.
He also reiterated that the latest round of coronavirus business support will be more generous than its equivalent in England and Scotland.
Hefin David, Senedd Member for Caerphilly, said: “This decision has been taken to contain the spread of the virus before Christmas and save lives.
“The decision taken by the Welsh Government is based on the advice of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and was taken to model the English Tier 3 approach and the approach taken in Scotland.
“In tier 3 areas in England there was negative growth rate after the introduction of tiers and restrictions.
“The Welsh Government compensation package for businesses affected is greater than those in England and Scotland.
“The Welsh Government has also introduced restrictions on mixing between households and it is vital that people adhere to these in order to prevent further spread.”
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