Covid: Hospitality 'in peril' without extra money after Christmas

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New restrictions were introduced in response to Covid-19's Omicron variant

Pubs and restaurants fear the "giant festive flop" of Christmas trading will result in closures and job losses.

UK Hospitality Cymru said without extra money and lighter Covid restrictions businesses would be left in "peril".

It follows Wales' quieter New Year after limits of six in pubs and nightclub closures were imposed as part of tougher Covid measures.

The Welsh government said its emergency financial support package would be available from 10 January.

A spokesman added they would continue to consider whether additional emergency business support funding was needed.

David Chapman, director of UK Hospitality Cymru, said: "We haven't got the revenue to be able to see our businesses through properly to the end of these restrictions."

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford did not set an end date for the restrictions when they were announced before Christmas, but said he wanted them in place for the shortest possible time.

Public Health Wales reported 21,279 new Covid cases and 10 new deaths in a 48-hour period leading up to Tuesday morning.

It brings the total number of cases in Wales to 689,750.

The case rate quadrupled in the last two weeks of December from 523 on 14 December to 2,133 to on December.

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Some pubs remained closed on New Year's Eve

Mr Chapman said retaining staff on current government support was "unsustainable", especially when closed nightclubs were "expected to keep a full staff roster for as long as two months, with a grant that doesn't even amount to a busy night's takings".

Hospitality rules vary between Wales and the other UK nations, with people living in England not required to limit groups in pubs and still allowed to visit nightclubs.

Although English hospitality reported a shortfall, Mr Chapman said revenue in Wales was at least 25% lower than across the boarder at present.

He said the trade body was not calling for furlough to return, but stressed "if financial support isn't swiftly forthcoming, grave commercial impacts are inevitable, which will hugely damage communities across Wales".

"While we appreciate there are serious health implications for omicron, we appreciate there are serious health and economic implications that are involved with our industry not having sufficient support.

"This is the danger period... the next three or four weeks is crunch time."

'We can't carry on like this'

Image source, Ellen Morris
Image caption,
Ellen Morris said her business was still recovering from debt mounted during previous lockdowns

Ellen Morris, owner of The Plas Coch and The Ship pubs in Bala, Gwynedd, said she had to triple staff to be ready for table service when the new restrictions came in, but "everybody went over the border to England".

"You can't compete with that, it's killing hospitality," she said.

"We can't carry on like this, there'll end up being no hospitality trade in Wales."

Ms Morris told BBC Radio Wales she was "desperate", and although there is help, the Welsh government's funding package will "not touch the sides".

"I'm definitely going to go under, we're already in debt from the previous lockdown. We're paying that back now with no business.

"We'll need a lot more... everybody's different."

She said letting people travel across the border for festive celebrations was "stupid", adding "it's time they [Welsh government] relooked at stuff in different ways".

Image source, Ellen Morris
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"The end conclusion: There were no customers there," says Ms Morris, owner of The Plas Coch

The Welsh government said it appreciated Alert Level Two measures in place "may have an impact on businesses" being able to trade.

"Our £120m package of emergency financial support, covers impacted businesses for the period from 13 December 2021 to 14 February 2022.

"Businesses eligible for non-domestic rates-based payments need to register with their local authority from 10 January and will start receiving payments quickly afterwards.

"The application window for the Economic Resilience Fund will open in the week of 17 January with payments starting to reach businesses within days."

It added the situation was being reviewed weekly and the Welsh government "will continue to consider whether additional emergency business support funding is needed".

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