Publicans and operators who run hundreds of pubs across Wales have today urged First Minister Mark Drakeford to provide them more support and clear dates on when they can expect to reopen once more.
They say they are at crisis point as they are not getting the financial support they need from the Welsh Government, nor have they been given dates yet or a roadmap on when they can expect to reopen their businesses as the vaccine rollout continues apace across Wales.
The publicans and operators say the First Minister is not giving Welsh publicans enough financial backing, when compared to the support and clarity on reopening their counterparts are getting in England and Scotland.
The last grant for pubs in Wales covered the period up to the end of March, yet pubs cannot expect to reopen fully until May. According to them and the Welsh Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association in Wales representing pubs and brewers, they need restart grants like those in England and Scotland urgently to ensure their pubs can survive continued lockdown and reopen once more.
The First Minister this weekend suggested that pubs may be able to open outdoors in late April, but the date for a full reopening indoors remains unknown.
In comparison, pubs in England are still eligible for one-off grants up to £18,000 and have a clear roadmap to reopening, whereby they can open from April 12th at the earliest for outdoors service only, followed by indoors service from May 17th and a full reopening without restrictions from June.
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:
“Welsh pubs are in limbo, with no clarity on when they can expect to fully reopen nor the financial support they need to continue to survive in lockdown.
“We will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government but our pubs and publicans in Wales are suffering, and cash reserves are rapidly becoming exhausted. If the First Minister wants to prevent pubs from falling at the final hurdle, we must have more support. We need a clear indication with dates on when they can expect to fully reopen, as well as great increase in the level of support they are getting to ensure they can hold on.”
Geoff Fiddler, Publican at one of Wales oldest pubs, the Skirrid in Llanvihangel Cucorney near Abergavenny, said:
“We urgently need a detailed timeline for the reopening of Welsh pubs. We’ve been kept in the dark for too long with little support. Like many other Publicans, we are frustrated by the Welsh Government’s claims that they are providing the most generous support package in the UK when in reality, we are not seeing where this money is going. With eligibility restraints around the Sector Specific Support, so many of us are missing out. Without more information surrounding reopening, or an increase in support, many pubs will certainly struggle to obtain their former glory, place in the community and financial stability.”
John Thompson and AndyTaverner of the Gaerwen Arms, Anglesea, said:
“Being located in a tourist area, we are keen that there is a measured approach taken to reopening, providing us with plenty of notice so we can factor in stock and staffing. We need a timetable so that we can plan ahead as the opening and closing, like at Christmas when there was minimal notice, is the hardest thing for our business.”
Barrie Jones of the Rhydypennau Inn, Aberyswtyth, said:
“Pubs like mine need certainty of dates when we can reopen so that we can get in stock and make sure everything is Covid safe.”
Marsha Ward of The Taffs Well Inn, Taffs Well, said:
“At this time we have nothing to work towards. We cannot advise staff of their anticipated return date to work, budget for and source stock, negotiate delivery timescales, plan staff rotas, market to our customers in the lead up to our reopening date. Whilst our counterparts in England have had a clear path for some time.
“As for now, we sit and wait and watch as our precious Spring months roll in to one another with no ability to plan ahead. Our trading areas unused, sunny days passing, our customers asking us daily as they walk by… ‘when do you think you’ll be open?’.
“We understand there is an announcement planned for this Thursday and trust that sense will prevail.”