Night time businesses in Wales trying to emerge from Covid lockdown are enduring a perfect storm due to the so-called pingdemic, a woeful lack of clarity from the Welsh Government around reopening responsibilities and a severe shortage of industry staff, warns Unite For The Night.
Unite For The Night – the body that represents around 700 night time businesses in Swansea, Cardiff and wider Wales – has warned that the pandemic is likely to scupper nightclubs and live and electronic music venues before they even get to reopen on 7 August.
Nick Newman, from Unite For the Night, said: “We are facing the perfect storm of the pingdemic causing potential night time staff to isolate in droves, we already have a chronic lack of staff because our venues have been closed for more than a year so our workforces have moved on, and on top of this we have the Welsh Government giving its usual lack of clarity on how our night time business are expected to carry out risk assessments in the space of two weeks when they have been given no detail around what they should include and what their criteria need to be. We cannot operate under conditions like this and more of our valuable night time businesses will shut for good if serious efforts are not made to support them.”
Hospitality firms – bars and restaurants – that have been able to open were already struggling to find enough staff before they were hit by pingdemic absences caused by employees being told to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app, according to official figures. Latest data from the Office for National Statistics has underlined the difficulties facing that sector, with revenues 70 per cent below normal, and pubs and nightclubs faring even worse.
Nick added: “Figures suggest the rebound of pubs and restaurants could be slowed by the difficulty in finding staff to fill a rising number of vacancies – and, of course, nightclubs and venues that remain closed across the board in Wales are undermined before they even begin to open their doors. The effects of the isolation demands from the Test and Trace app are ridiculous, at a time when the vaccination programme is advancing so well across Wales.”
There were an estimated 102,000 job vacancies in hospitality between April and June, nearly five-and-a-half times higher than the 19,000 recorded in December to February, and more than 20 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Nick added: “I would remind the Welsh Government that many of the hard-working men and women who run our clubs, pubs and venues here in Wales are facing ruin and those who haven’t already left the industry are considering doing so. The night time industry is faced with a chronic staffing crisis, with many hospitality workers having been forced into other employment or having left the area. Recruiting and training new staff will take time and resources, but still night time businesses have been given only vague guidance around what their re-opening should look like and what safeguards need to be in place. This shocking lack of a credible roadmap from the Welsh Government at every stage of the pandemic has left our night time businesses unable to plan for a carefully managed reopening of their businesses. This pattern seems to be continuing.”
It is estimated that by the time clubs can reopen, there will be between 40 to 50 per cent fewer operating compared to pre-Covid figures.