Covid: Pubs and restaurants reopen outdoors in Wales

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'You take the small things for granted'

People in Wales have been visiting pubs and restaurants for the first time in almost five months.

From Monday, pubs, cafes and restaurants in Wales are able to reopen to customers outdoors.

Up to six people from six households are now able to meet, with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Outdoor attractions, such as zoos and theme parks, can also reopen under the latest easing of lockdown.

Wedding receptions and funerals can again be held outdoors at regulated premises with up to 30 people.

Organised outdoor activities, such as sport activities limited to 30 people, are also able to resume.

Protests are also now allowed but will need to be organised by a "responsible body with appropriate mitigations, including undertaking a risk assessment".

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After an almost five month wait, people enjoyed a drink in this Pembrokeshire beer garden

Hospitality is set to reopen indoors from 17 May, along with increased limits on those who can attend organised events, but this depends on case rates and the make-up of the Welsh government after the election on 6 May.

Wales' rolling seven-day case rate is now 12.9 per 100,000 people, the lowest level since 3 September.

More than a fifth of people in Wales have now had a full Covid vaccine.

Volunteers and those who are unable to work from home can also order a lateral flow self-test kit to be delivered to their home from Monday.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said because "meeting outdoors continues to be lower risk than meeting indoors" the lockdown easing was able to go ahead.

The Welsh Conservatives said it was a "welcome but long overdue" reopening for these sectors.

Plaid Cymru said it was thanks to "the collective effort of the people of Wales" that the changes could happen.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats described it as a "cautious but welcome" first step to reopening.

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Linda and Pat have been enjoying drinks in Bargoed, Caerphilly

'First drink of the year'

Friends Linda Trollope and Pat Cooper have been enjoying a gin on the terrace of Murray's Sports Bar in Bargoed, Caerphilly county.

"It is so lovely just to be out in the open and in the sun again," said Ms Trollope.

"First drink of the year, we couldn't wait for it to open again, even if it is outside."

"I wish I wore a t-shirt, instead of my winter jumper. We're celebrating in style," added Ms Cooper.

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Jean Ellis (far right) was relieved to be out after spending much of the past year at home

Jean Ellis, from Rhyl, Denbighshire, was at the Dinorben Arms in Bodfari celebrating her son's birthday.

"It's lovely," she said.

"I was restricted to my own home for so long because I have heart problems and I have to be very careful, but I've had both my vaccinations now, so I'm hopefully clear now."

'Still limited'

Nick Saunders, director of an entertainment and food venue in Cardiff, said he was "delighted to be back open" after being shut for the past five months.

He said it was "crucial" to get more than 60 members of staff who have been on furlough back to work.

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Nick Saunders says the entertainment he can provide is still limited

From Monday, the venue will be operating 40 tables offering street food, with table service carried out via an app.

However, Mr Saunders said he was "still limited" by the entertainment he could offer, saying "there's no real entertainment we can do apart from background music".

"We'd be delighted to get back to entertaining people in the way that we have done previously," he said.

'Small and strong community'

Image source, Elen Morris
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Elen Morris reopened her pub in Bala on Monday

Meanwhile, Elen Morris said there would be "a lot to do" to prepare for reopening her pub in Bala, Gwynedd, after five months of being shut.

Ms Morris said opening outdoors would not be "financially viable" because there would be "triple the staff, and a quarter of the capacity", but once they could open indoors customers would be there "day in, day out".

"People used to go out and have a pint on their own and talk to bar staff until somebody else came in - and by the end of the night they would know who is who in the pub and all get along," she said.

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Locals headed to the beer garden to enjoy a pint and have a catch up in the sunshine in Ystalyfera

Suzanne Hallmark-Powell, who was preparing for a busy day in her beer garden in Ystalyfera, near Swansea, told BBC Radio Wales that if the sunny weather continued everything would be OK.

"If it's like during the last lockdown when we reopened, all it did was rain for two weeks, and that put us even further back," she said.

She added she was looking forward to seeing her regulars again, saying: "A lot of my regulars are elderly people that live on their own, so that walk to their pub or shop, that's their only socialisation."

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Friends Vicky Evans and Lauren Ing enjoyed a cup of coffee in the sunshine at Barry Island

As cafes and pubs could start serving customers outside, people enjoyed a drink in the sunshine at Barry Island.

Friends Vicky Evans and Lauren Ing enjoyed a cup of coffee in the sunshine after travelling from Herefordshire, and said they might go for "something stronger later".

After bringing his deck chair to the beach every day, to be able to sit outside, Jim Kennedy said it was "wonderful" to finally be able to meet friends for a drink.

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The sun was shining as people enjoyed pints at the Lamb and Flag in Rhayader, Powys

Thomas Jones, who grabbed a pint at 11:00 BST when the Lamb and Flag in Rhayader reopened, said it had been "a long winter" for the industry.

"It's good to get out and support them," he said, "We are hoping for a better summer in the town and looking forward to visitors."

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People enjoyed soaking up the sunshine as the Liverpool Arms reopened in Conwy

'The animals will enjoy the company of visitors'

Meanwhile, in neighbouring county Conwy, Nick Jackson's zoo is also preparing to open its doors again to visitors.

He said he was "over the moon" to reopen and staff had been working "frantically".

"We're so pleased to be opening and getting income back, but it still hangs over our heads the worry as to what the future holds."

Image source, M K Rimmer Photography
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Nick Jackson thinks many of his zoo's animals will enjoy the company of visitors again

He said the zoo's closure to the public - including being shut for two Easter periods - has been "very difficult, in a direct practical way because of the loss of income".

"Although we're back on Monday we're not back to the level of normality we would like to see."

The zoo will have a visitor number cap of 1,500 people who can enter per day.

Mr Jackson said the site would only be able to reopen its outdoor areas, while its cafe is just operating for takeaways.

However, he said he thought that many of the zoo's animals - including primates and monkeys - would "enjoy the company of the visitors coming in" because they find them entertaining and amusing.

'Out on the water'

Image source, Getty Images
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Adults will be able to take up watersports courses again - such as stand-up paddleboarding

The lockdown changes also mean adults will also be able to return to outdoor activity centres.

Alison Yates, operations and programme manager at a centre in Caernarfon, said the team was pleased visitors "will now be able to experience the huge benefits that come from being out on the water, especially after a period which has been tough for many reasons, including on mental health".

The attraction - which offers outdoor activities and watersports courses - initially reopened on 2 April for under-18s living in Wales, but from Monday it is able to welcome all visitors from across the UK.

'Eager to get on the green'

Image source, Sport Wales
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Alan Thompson had played bowls for 30 years but played his last game just a day before he had a stroke in 2018

For Alan Thompson, 74, the easing of restrictions means he will be able to step back on the bowling green for the first time in over three years after recovering from a stroke.

While playing was banned, Mr Thompson, from Llantrisant, had been practicing by taking part in virtual games during lockdown.

"I honestly didn't think I'd ever be able to play bowls again, but playing virtual bowls helped me ease back into it and I've found my confidence again," he said.

"I've done the rehearsal and now it's time for the real performance out on the green."

'You can't guarantee the weather'

Image source, Getty Images
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Wedding receptions with 30 people can be held outdoors from Monday in Wales

However, Bre Carrington-Sykes said despite restrictions easing to allow 30 at outdoor weddings, many of the bookings at her wedding venue still cannot go ahead.

The venue in Llandyrnog, Denbighshire, typically accommodates up to 150 people for a wedding booking.

She said so far she just has two weddings able to go ahead in June, but there are at least 70 weddings still waiting to happen because couples want more than 30 people present.

"Until we open up properly, many of our weddings can't go ahead.

"On a wedding day, we could have roughly 40 staff - including caterers, florists - working here."

Image source, Pentre Mawr Wedding Venue
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Bre Carrington-Sykes says just two of her wedding bookings can go ahead under the new rules

"Usually we'd have a wedding every weekend from March to the end of October. Last year we had 43 weddings booked.

"We're maintaining the place and desperate to get open, refurbishing different pieces, but an outdoor wedding even for 30 people - you can't guarantee the weather," she said.

'Desperate for clarity'

Tracey Owen, who owns a wedding venue, in Llangollen, Denbighshire, said three weeks notice was "pretty pointless" for most couples and many venues were already booked up.

"Weddings need a couple of months to prepare... and our couples are making decisions for weddings due to take place months away," she told BBC Radio Wales.

She repeated calls for clarity for couples and the industry, saying people were "desperate" to know when receptions would be able to be held indoors.

"We've lost all of our weddings to postponements to later dates... our couples have been so patient we really need that clarity," she said.

The Welsh government said it had provided the "most generous offer of help anywhere in the UK" with a package of financial assistance for firms worth more than £2bn.

A spokeswoman said it was looking to run a number of pilot events in May and June, connected to the test events programme happening in England.

"We will assess these results and will work closely with the events sector with the aim of restoring activities safely and successfully in Wales as soon as we're able to do so," she said.

What do Wales' political parties say?

Mr Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader, said the reopening of hospitality outdoors would provide more opportunities for people to meet and have a "significant positive impact on people's well-being".

A Welsh Conservative spokesman said the reopening of sectors such as outdoor hospitality was "welcome but long overdue, particularly when clarity could've been afforded to these businesses some time ago".

"Regrettably, Labour ministers have chosen to play politics at the expense of people's businesses and livelihoods, and that's why the Welsh Conservatives pledge to cut the confusion and end the political games in Cardiff Bay after May's Senedd election."

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, said it was "thanks to the collective effort of the people of Wales" and NHS staff that rules could be eased.

"Like people all over Wales, I can't wait to support local businesses by enjoying a socially distanced drink after a long day campaigning for Plaid Cymru."

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said the reopening was a "cautious but welcome" first step to the recovery of the hospitality sector, which it "desperately needs".

"For many firms, takings will be significantly down as they can only operate at a reduced capacity and it's important that financial assistance from the government continues," she said.

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