PUB landlords on the Herefordshire border have been left counting the cost of the most recent wave of coronavirus restrictions in Wales, leading to a quieter than usual Christmas.
While the Welsh Government and First Minister Mark Drakeford preach caution – with the return of two-metre social distancing, mask-wearing, table service and contact tracing from Boxing Day in pubs and restaurants – the UK Government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s more relaxed approach, is set to continue to have a detrimental effect on the Welsh hospitality industry going into 2022.
New rules in Wales have left some customers confused while others stayed away on December 26 – normally one of the busiest nights of the year. One pub landlady in Knighton said she was dealt a Boxing Day knockout with trade 70 per cent down compared to normal.
Groups have also been limited to a maximum of six people, to slow the spread of the omicron variant.
Meanwhile, thousands of New Year’s Eve revellers were expected to escape strict Covid-19 restrictions in Wales by hopping across the border to visit nightspots in English towns and cities.
For publicans in Powys towns like Knighton and Presteigne, it’s a particularly bitter pill to swallow as they are just minutes from the English border – a small part of Knighton is actually situated in Shropshire.
“Well, we’re doing ok I suppose,” said a fed-up Alison Proudman, landlady at the town’s Golden Lion pub.
“We have been as busy as we can be with the restrictions, but compared to a normal Christmas it’s been awful really. Take Boxing Day for instance, we were busy but probably down 70 per cent on a normal Boxing Day, it’s definitely curtailed footfall.
“As we’re extremely close to the English border it’s very frustrating when, six miles away, hospitality life is carrying on pretty much as normal; something’s not right somewhere.”
Six miles further south in Presteigne, Royal Oak landlord Dale Gorman has to contend with losing his Christmas and New Year’s Eve custom to counterparts in yet another county – Herefordshire.
“We are lucky to just about be coping but it’s not without added strain and pressure on us all again,” he said.
“Once again we find ourselves bearing the brunt of tough restrictions during what is normally a busy period for us all. Hopefully this won’t be for long as our neighbours in England stand to not introduce restrictions; this may drive custom over the border which could affect us all greatly in these border towns.”
Elsewhere in Powys, landlords have become almost disengaged as there’s nothing they can do to stem the bleeding.
Gwyn Davies, who runs Builth Wells’ Fountain Inn with his family, said: “We’re doing our best, the rules are not thought out properly because we just pushed people to go over the border for their night out.
“Table service for the majority of pubs means about 40 per cent of normal trade and more staff and hassle to implement rules.
“All the governments have done a great job of scaring everyone to stay at home while starving people of their livelihoods. It’s a smart plan because that way they haven’t got to financially support staff or owners. It’s very hard to make businesses and staffing decisions.”
In Rhayader, Elan Hotel manager Martin McDaid says he’s just focusing on trying to get on with things. “We have got used to changes coming in quickly,” he said.
“The need for the most recent set of rules are a bit confusing though.”
The Welsh Government said on Tuesday that its restrictions were proportionate, with the latest seven-day coronavirus rate per 100,000 people rising to 1,004 – the highest since the pandemic began.
About 6,000 new infections are being confirmed daily, the majority caused by the omicron variant.