'This is not a letter from restaurant owners wanting to stay open out of greed, this is a letter from people who feel very strongly that by putting these restrictions in place it will affect the entire town'

The Staff Canteen

The owners of a Welsh restaurant have written an open letter to the government anticipating the restrictions set to come into force on Friday, 4th December, which will see hospitality venues banned from selling alcohol and inhibiting them from welcoming guests on the premises after 6pm. 

The Welsh first minister confirmed the news earlier today, insisting that a sharp rise in coronavirus infections had made it inevitable, and that failing to do so could see as many as 1,700 avoidable deaths come January. 

However, the news comes just three short weeks after a national 17-day 'firebreak' lockdown forced all hospitality venues to close and banned people from crossing the border from England, leaving businesses with a flurry of reservations, plans and invoices on their hands.

The letter, written by the owners of Chapters Restaurant, in Hay-on-Wye, just beyond the English border, reads: 

"We opened our restaurant on the 5th of July 2019 in the border town Hay-on-Wye, a town that relies heavily on tourism to support the independent businesses, cafes, pubs, B&Bs and bookshops. To say it has not been the easiest of first years is an understatement. Trade in the area was greatly affected by flooding that circled Hay like a moat in the early part of 2020 stopping visitors from Wales and England. We did find reservations picking up nicely by Mother’s day in March and we had a healthy looking April & May planned which is when Hay-on-Wye hosts the annual literature festival (obviously all of these reservations were indeed cancelled).

"As expected the pandemic hit the area hard and due to the fact that our local economy is run on local independently run businesses it was refreshing to see how people pulled together, supported one another and while there were fewer people around those businesses supported their customers diligently. As a business we greatly appreciated the attitudes of the Welsh government over the summer and supported the opinions to keep the lockdown in place for a longer period than across the border.

"During the lockdown we adapted our business to offer a takeaway service and while this kept us afloat and our minds active it was certainly not what we set out to do 8 months previously. When lockdown ended we took out 50% of our tables, staggered our bookings, ensured we only had guests coming from lower tiered areas, asked them to wear masks and use hand sanitizer and we increased the already high standards of 2cleaning that were in place.

"While the Firebreak was a difficult two weeks this was put to the people of Wales as a ‘short, sharp, shock’ to hit the virus hard but then we would be able to keep businesses open till Christmas. That information affected the way we then planned November and December it meant we could write menus, place orders for ingredients, take reservations and deposits for reservations. The news that from next Friday we will be hit again with restrictions is a heavy blow.

"The news that restaurants [will] not be allowed to open in the evening or to serve alcohol means that our business that is open during the evening for dinner will have to close again, changing our business model to open exclusively during the day would not only affect the trade for the other local businesses but would simply not be viable with our menu style and the experience we deliver. We are a young business trying to develop and maintain a reputation, with many bookings being attempted for December for the 3rd time we are at great risk of losing this reputation with people simply giving up.

"Our diary is filling up with people from the local area who want to eat in a safe environment where they are looked after. We need to be able to plan ahead, will these new rules mean we will be closed until the Christmas week? Will we have to close again afterwards? Are we going to be allowed to open for New Year’s Eve? Are we allowed guests from England over Christmas? These are just some of the many questions we have.

"It takes time to plan for restaurants, people take time deciding where they are going to spend these important occasions and if we are not given enough notice then we will end up with no trade at all.
Guests who visit from a different area are not only spending money with us, typically they will stay over one night or more in one of the independently run B&B’s, air B&B’s or self-catered accommodations, they will visit the shops and cafes during the day again spending money with the independently run businesses.

"They don’t come and get drunk and cause problems – they enable our local economy to keep sustainable. If the restaurants are closed in the evenings where will these people eat? Without places for them to eat they will not visit – this is not a letter from restaurant owners wanting to stay open out of greed, this is a letter from people who feel very strongly that by putting these restrictions in place it will affect the entire town, a town that if left with the current restrictions could maintain its economy over the next couple of months without asking for grants, furloughing staff and draining the governments money."

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th November 2020

'This is not a letter from restaurant owners wanting to stay open out of greed, this is a letter from people who feel very strongly that by putting these restrictions in place it will affect the entire town'