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Reopening indoor hospitality in Wales is a welcome boost

Photo credit: Matthew Horwood

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced today (Friday 31 July) further changes to the coronavirus regulations in Wales.

The latest package of changes follow the sixth review of the coronavirus regulations and focus on enabling friends and family to meet each other outdoors and enabling more businesses to open indoors.

A series of changes will be made to the coronavirus regulations over the next three weeks:

From 3 August:

  • The restrictions preventing more than two households or extended households meeting outdoors will be changed to allow up to 30 people to meet outdoors. Physical distancing must be maintained at all times.
  • Pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes will be able to re-open indoors. As will indoor bowling alleys, auction houses and bingo halls.
  • Licenced wedding venues will be able to re-open to provide wedding ceremonies. However, indoor receptions will not be able to take place for the time being – they will be considered as part of the changes for August 15.
  • The guidance will be updated to relax the position on children under 11 having to maintain a 2m distance from each other or from adults. This reflects the scientific evidence, which shows the risk of transmission is lower among this age group. However, it is very important older children and young adults continue to follow social distancing and the other measures to keep them safe.

If conditions remain favourable, from 10 August:

  • Swimming pools, indoor fitness studios, gyms, spas and indoor leisure centres will be able to re-open.
  • Children’s indoor play areas will be able to open.

The Welsh Government is also exploring whether changes can be made to the rules to enable people to meet indoors with other people  who aren’t part of their household or extended household from August 15.

The lifting of restrictions for the indoor hospitality sector has been welcomed by a number of businesses and trade body organisations across Wales.

‘Signifiant move following months of uncertainty’

Paul Slevin, President of South and Mid Wales Chamber of Commerce, said:

“We welcome the announcements from the First Minister today regarding the further easing of lockdown measures. For the hospitality industry in particular, the ability to reopen indoor facilities is significant following months of uncertainty and challenges within the sector. With the addition of the UK Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ incentive, the move is a positive step for the sector and consumers to regain a sense of normality.

“The Welsh Government’s decision to set a provisional date for indoor leisure activities to reopen will also be appreciated by many, providing clarity for the sector and allowing them to plan for a safe return.

“We continue to work with businesses, the Welsh and UK Governments in an effort to help to further reduce the restrictions and enable more businesses to reopen.”

‘Very welcome and will help even more businesses’

Commenting on the latest review of coronavirus restrictions in Wales, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:

“There is very welcome news in the announcement today for many more businesses in Wales.

“The confirmation that pubs, cafes, restaurants and bars can open indoors from Monday marks a significant step forwards for Wales’ economic recovery and for the businesses concerned. We’d now urge people to consider how they can support small firms as reopening continues. Whether that be on the high street, whilst on day trips or on a short break in Wales, or through eating and drinking out. The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme runs throughout August and is a great opportunity for anyone wanting to eat and drink out to support small hospitality businesses as they reopen.

“FSB is also pleased to see that swimming pools, gyms and indoor play centres can reopen from the 10th August. These are some of the businesses that have waited the longest to reopen, and have shouldered significant financial impacts as a result.

“As we move through the second half of the summer, we hope to see these firms given every opportunity to reopen safely and successfully. You can only reopen once, and for businesses to have the best chance possible of remaining profitable, retaining staff and returning to their pre-coronavirus levels, the process of reopening must be as smooth as possible. This means supporting businesses to innovate and to look at how they can be both safe and sustainable.”

‘Positive step, but more clarity is needed’

UKHospitality has welcomed the news that indoor hospitality in Wales will be permitted to reopen from Monday.

The trade body has also called on the Welsh Government to urgently provide further clarity for those elements of hospitality still unable to reopen.

Commenting on today’s announcement, UKHospitality Executive Director for Wales, David Chapman said: “The majority of the hospitality sector will now be able to reopen from Monday. That includes indoor play areas and leisure centres as well as pubs and restaurants. This is a welcome and really positive step forward for Welsh hospitality businesses which have been hit very hard by this crisis. Our sector plays a big part in local economies all around Wales, so getting the sector back up and running is going to be crucial.

“We do now need further clarity for those parts of the sector that cannot open, such as function and event centres, and weddings venues. Following a Ministerial meeting on Friday, we will be meeting with Welsh Government on Monday to seek to drive forward a route map for reopening these key areas so businesses can have some sense of security.

“We are also in advanced and positive discussions with Welsh Government, who recognise our arguments around the devastating impact of a loss of the season and restrictive opening, to seek additional targeted rescue funding support for the tourism and hospitality sector in Wales.”

‘Eat independent, support local’

Meanwhile, independent food and drink businesses in Wales are calling on the public to ‘eat independent, support local’ when the “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme launches and indoor opening resumes on Monday 3 August.

The UK Government programme is covering the costs of a half price discount on eating out (up to the value of £10) on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.

By choosing to use the discount to eat with independent food and drink venues, customers will be directing that government support to those small businesses, high streets and communities who need it the most. That is the message from the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective, a group of over 300 local food & drink businesses which formed in May to help the sector through lockdown.

Simon Wright, Wrights Food Emporium

Simon Wright, restaurateur, food writer and owner of Wright’s Food Emporium in Llanarthne, is a founding member of the collective. He explained:

“Eat Out to Help Out is direct government support for struggling restaurants. The customer gets the discount applied automatically to their bill, and the government makes a weekly payment to the restaurant – it’s very easy to use.

“This is a critical time for food and drink businesses in Wales. Making businesses work with social distancing and reduced capacity is a huge challenge. And while many of our independent cafes, bars and restaurants have adapted to be able to carry on serving their customers and communities through lockdown, it’s been nowhere near our normal levels of trading.

“Independent food and drink businesses are the heart and soul of high streets, towns and villages throughout Wales. By employing local people, working with other independent producers and using neighbourhood services, they’re keeping money circulating in the local economy. That’s beneficial to us all.

“They’re also creating a more interesting and sustainable dining experience. Being closer to local suppliers often can often mean food hasn’t travelled as far and will be in season. And being independent means greater freedom in the kitchen to experiment and reflect local tastes.

“What better way to ensure the Eat Out to Help Out scheme as a direct impact in your community, than by booking a table at your favourite independent cafe, bar or restaurant”, he said.

The Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective was formed by a group of restaurant-owners to give a stronger voice to the sector. Calculating that lockdown and social distancing measures had put 30,000 jobs at risk in Wales, the Collective is campaigning for greater support from government at all levels.

They are also asking the public to show support for the ‘Eat Independent, Support Local’ campaign by using the hashtag #EatIndieWales on social media whenever they eat at their favourite local restaurants. Local food businesses will display a campaign sticker to show they are taking part.