Alcohol ban for pubs ‘an insult’ to industry

New rules for pubs are “insulting” and “a huge slap in the face” for the sector, said the boss of Wales’ biggest brewers.

Alistair Darby of Brains called on politicians to “stop changing their mind” on what is required.

Welsh pubs, restaurants and cafes will be banned from selling alcohol from Friday and will be unable to open to customers beyond 18:00 GMT.

Mark Drakeford said the new rules will tackle a rise in coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he understood why companies in the industry are upset, but admitted there is “no perfect balance” between protecting public health and businesses.

Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers, he added: “What we can do is make sure more of us will be here in the future to celebrate life events.”

However Mr Darby said the move suggests pubs and restaurants are areas of “high transmission”.

“It’s hugely frustrating and a bit insulting. It says people are not making the effort being asked of them,” he said.

UK government Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said restrictions had been lifted too quickly after Wales’ 17-day firebreak.

He said, he sympathised with the Welsh Government, but added: “As a result of doing that, the virus once more got out of control, so they’ve had to slam the brakes on again.

“The example of Wales shows what can happen if you lift the restrictions in too blanket a way too soon.”

The Welsh Conservatives have accused the Welsh Government of putting jobs at risk with the new rules.

Brains employs 1,400 people and has 104 pubs, but Mr Darby said the move will be felt by many thousands of other workers who supply the industry, such as electricians, plumbers and caterers.

“It will have an impact on a huge number of people who make a living from the sector and our communities who, I fear, will be deprived the opportunity to visit a pub this Christmas.”

Mr Drakeford said new measures are necessary or there could be between 1,000 and 1,700 preventable deaths this winter.

The Brains boss said: “The sector has done more than its fair share to ensure those potential deaths are avoided.

“And at the end of this, we will be asking, if lives aren’t saved, what the answer will be?”

The first minister said firms hit by the restrictions would be offered £340m in support which he claimed was “the most generous package” anywhere in the UK.

However Mr Darby said the support “would not touch the sides”.

As an £80m turnover business, Brains spent £500,000 in personal protective equipment (PPE) and digital technology for pre-booking, while it has “surrendered” huge capacity and lost summer trading, Mr Darby added.

He said: “My message to politicians is ‘you have to stop changing your mind on what is required in the sector’.

“We have done more than our fair share to ensure potential deaths are avoided at the end of this.”

‘Christmas has been cancelled’

David Cattrall, managing director of Harlech Foodservice, warned that many hospitality businesses would not survive the latest round of restrictions.

“There is a palpable sense of frustration, bewilderment and anger at the restrictions being placed upon the hospitality sector in north and mid Wales,” he said.

“The rate of the virus is lower here than in south Wales so it defies logic that we are being subjected to this damaging one-size-fits-all policy.

“The run-up to Christmas is when the sector makes enough money to keep them going through the quiet months of January and February but it’s clear now that Christmas has been cancelled as far as the hospitality sector is concerned.”

Businesses need an exit plan and reassurance they will be able to open at Easter “as a matter of urgency”, he added.

Kelly Jolliffe, owner and landlady of The Greyhound Inn in Usk, Monmouthshire, said she was “gutted” about the new restrictions.

“I was expecting it, I was hoping that it would only be shutting at 6pm, which I think we could all have managed with and could have all worked around,” she said.

“But when he banned the alcohol, I just thought there’s no point really – we’re a pub!”

She told Radio Wales Breakfast she has decided to close, despite having got the pub ready for the Christmas trade.

“We were all decked out, all socially distanced, bookings coming in, everybody working around the regulations,” she said.

Tory covid recovery spokesman Darren Millar said the restrictions could affect jobs across Wales.

He added: “With one in 10 of the Welsh workforce employed by hospitality enterprises and with so many relying on pre-Christmas trade, the Welsh Government is now putting tens of thousands of jobs and livelihoods at risk.”