Welsh restaurateurs 'desperate' for clarity on reopening of indoor hospitality

10 May 2021 by
Welsh restaurateurs 'desperate' for clarity on reopening of indoor hospitality

Independent restaurant and pub owners in Wales are said to be "desperate" to know what restrictions they will have to follow when indoor hospitality reopens on 17 May.

No clear guidelines have yet been published and it is unlikely they will be announced until later this week.

Following last week's elections, the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC) wrote an open letter to all members of the Senedd, urging them to announce details of any necessary regulations immediately.

Representing more than 400 venues, the WIRC is seeking permission for its members to be allowed to operate their businesses in "the most unrestricted environment possible" with rules matching the situation in England, where from 17 May tables of six will be allowed from six different households and the two-metre rule will not apply.

It is also calling for "an immediate announcement to signal a restart grant at least as generous as those in Scotland and England" and the removal of "all significant restriction on trading" before the end of June.

The WIRC said that the additional financial support required is necessary as Wales has been "under the heaviest trading restrictions of any of the UK nations and that the gap in funding that has persisted since 31 March needs to be filled".

The letter outlines that Welsh hospitality businesses have been closed for 279 days since March 2020 and even when venues have been allowed to open, they have had to comply to strict guidelines including social distancing, limited numbers and restrictions of the selling of alcohol and hours of opening.

Kasim Ali (pictured below), one of the founding members of WIRC and the owner of the five-strong Waterloo chain of cafés in and around Cardiff, said that the lack of communication from the Welsh government was making it very difficult for members to plan the indoor reopening. "The lockdown has been crippling for businesses and now operators don't know how many bookings they are allowed to take, making the planning of staff rotas and ordering of stock a nightmare, with just days to go," he said.

Kasim Ali WIRC
Kasim Ali WIRC

"The government has used the excuse of the elections, but it is not as if the elections came out of the blue."

The two-metre rule means that the average number of covers of 40 at each Waterloo café is slashed to 20.

Ali said that members of WIRC have been fully in agreement and compliant with past restrictions, but believe that with the number of new Covid cases at 54 and no deaths reported on Sunday 9 May, there is little risk to opening indoor hospitality with limited restrictions. Nearly 75% of Welsh residents have now received their first vaccination, the highest figure of any of the four UK nations.

The current lack of financial support for Welsh hospitality businesses has been "very tough", explained Ali. "Everyone has a sense of responsibility toward their staff, but there is only so much a business can do." Ali has been paying out £12,000 per month on pension and national insurance contributions to furloughed staff.

The independent hospitality sector in Wales represents around 4,000 businesses employing over 50,000 people. Between 10,000 and 15,000 of those jobs have been lost over the past 14 months, with a number of small outlets now permanently closed.

The Welsh government is yet to respond to the WIRC letter.

Photo: Muratart/shutterstock.com

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