Welsh hospitality scrambling to alter bookings as 'rule of six' returns

22 December 2021 by
Welsh hospitality scrambling to alter bookings as 'rule of six' returns

Hospitality venues in Wales have been left scrambling to rearrange and cancel some bookings ahead of new coronavirus restrictions coming into force on Boxing Day.

From 26 December people in Wales will only be able to go to pubs and restaurants in groups of six and two-metre social distancing rules will apply.

Tommy Heaney, chef owner at Heaneys in Cardiff, said his restaurant would have to lose 20%-30% of its capacity to meet the two-metre requirement.

"Between Christmas and New Year we've got a few tables of ten booked in so we're going to have to start phoning around and asking if six people still want to come," Heaney told The Caterer.

"We're trying to be proactive and have made the decision to contact customers rather than waiting for them to cancel or potentially not show up."

Heaney said the restaurant was full for New Year's Eve but new restrictions meant not all those booked in could fit in the dining room. "Do we then have to start cancelling people, and who do we cancel? It's a really difficult situation," he added.

Dayle Evans, owner of the Morlais Castle Inn in Merthyr Tydfil, said he was disappointed the changes were announced only four days in advance.

"We have a band booked for Boxing Day we need to cancel, we have tables for that gig we need to cancel, we have staff [rotas] we need to rearrange," said Evans.

"We understand the situation, we just needed more time to deal with it. It's going to cost additional money to compensate people we've had to cancel."

A £120m support package for Welsh hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses impacted by the restrictions will be outlined on 23 December, but Evans said he had struggled to access support after only opening the pub this year.

"I've not been able to find any financial assistance because we've been trading less than 12 months," he said. "That's a grave area of concern. The funds we have raised will have to see us through the winter which is going to be challenging."

From 6am Boxing Day licensed premises in Wales will also have to offer table service only and collect customer's contact tracing details, while face masks must be worn in hospitality unless people are seated.

David Chapman, executive director of UKHospitality Cymru, warned the restrictions could have "devastating" impact on businesses and lead to closures and job losses in the New Year.

"The new restrictions virtually close Wales' events industry and take all other hospitality businesses much further into sub-viable trading," said Chapman.

"Our members are battered and bruised and at the end of their tether. Morale, alongside customer confidence, is low. Our customers have dwindled to a trickle and this news will only make matters worse."

Chapman added that the £120m support package fell "way short" of what was needed.

"Cash reserves are long gone; loans are being repaid and costs are soaring. Today's news here means we need the UK Government to help our businesses in Wales immediately and make more assistance available - and do it quickly. If not, there could be very serious permanent damage done to this industry in just a few weeks," he said.

Image: hodim / Shutterstock

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