The Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC) which represents over 300 registered supporting cafes, pubs and restaurants across Wales has sent an urgent letter to Welsh Government Ministers and officials setting out the increasingly fragile financial position of the sector.
The letter says that unless changes are made to the rules on eating out and extra funds are found to help the industry meet rent and other costs, thousands more jobs will go, and businesses will disappear.
Simon Wright, owner of Wrights Food Emporium in Llanarthne and one of the founding members of the collective, said:
“The WIRC recognises the swiftly changing trajectory of the virus, but emphasises that the speed of new controls needs to be matched by the rapid introduction of new financial support if the loss of further jobs, livelihoods and businesses are to be avoided”.
In a survey carried out after changes to the Covid-19 rules in Wales, results showed that 50% of businesses have already shed jobs, and that losses to date across Wales could be as high as 12,000 posts.
The survey also showed that a further 8,500 jobs are anticipated to be lost before Christmas, and 36% of business feel their chance of still trading at Easter 2021 are 50/50 at best.
The WIRC is now asking Welsh Government to reconsider their version of the rule of 6, which allows groups made up exclusively of extended households.
Cardiff restaurateur and pub owner Cerys Furlong said:
“The idea of the extended household bubble is both poorly understood by the public and is leading to bookings dominated by tables of two – as customers are unable to meet friends to eat. Coupled with the 2m rule this means many restaurants are operating on 25% of turnover or less.”
77% of the businesses surveyed by the WIRC viewed Welsh Government communication of the existing rules as either having ‘significant room for improvement’ or being ‘completely ineffective’. The WIRC point out that rules and guidance serve little purpose and less they are widely understood.
The letter to Welsh Government Ministers notes that most hospitality venues are operating in accordance with all rules and guidance, providing one of the safest environments in which to meet others – a point that has been made by local authorities, police and some politicians. The WIRC asks that ministers do more to support that case.
The WIRC also argue that the Scottish rule – which lets a changeable combination of 2 households meet inside homes or in hospitality venues – has similar regard for safety concerns but will have a much less severe impact on their hospitality sector, and also allows individuals to enjoy more varied and rewarding social interaction.
Finally, the letter to Welsh Government Ministers asks for urgent consideration of financial assistance to bridge the chasm caused by the steep decline in turnover, arguing that failure to do so will mean many businesses will go under. This will also have a consequent effect on their suppliers, meaning that they are not around to help a swift recovery when the Covid 19 crisis comes to an end.