HOSPITALITY traders say the Welsh Government was asking for trouble ahead of an Easter bank holiday weekend marred by illegal ravers.

After revellers left Barry Island looking like a rubbish dump last week, Cardiff Bay was home to a gathering not unlike the kind found beside a pool in Ibiza.

There were more too, according to landlord Carl Willett, who runs the Castle Inn in Monmouth and the Penally Inn in Tenby with partner Paul Cinderey.

“One was scheduled at Castle Hill in Tenby and there was one in Hereford too,” he said. “And it’s no wonder – they [the government] were asking for it.

South Wales Argus: Carl Willett and Paul Cinderey, landlords at the Castle Inn in Monmouth

Carl Willett and Paul Cinderey, landlords at the Castle Inn in Monmouth

“You can’t lift travel restrictions, allow pubs to serve takeaway pints, and then not expect these kind of events to take place.

“We should have been able to open when travel restrictions were lifted. With restrictions in place, it would have been so much safer than what we’ve now seen.

“It was a matter of time until this government was punished for a lack of common sense.”

Tom Musto, manager at the Ridgeway Bistro Bar in Newport, said issues have arisen because those selling alcohol cannot police those drinking.

South Wales Argus:

Tom Musto, manager at the Ridgeway in Newport

“People wouldn’t be congregating in the streets if proper restrictions were in place and we were open,” he said.

“We have had numerous visits from Trading Standards throughout the pandemic who have been more than happy with the way we’ve operated.

“The way it’s been handled has been strange, and it [raves] isn’t a surprise.”

The Welsh Government is likely to allow pubs to reopen outside from April 26, two weeks after pubs in England can reopen to outdoor guests.

Mr Willett says landlords at Wales' border towns will be hit hard, potentially losing many customers as people travel from Wales to enjoy an outdoor pint.

On Monday, March 15, Public Health Wales published findings of its study into coronavirus, which suggested that mixing in pubs can increase the risk of passing on the virus, but that gyms and restaurants were less likely to.

Restaurateur at the Beaufort Hotel in Raglan Miguel Santiago questioned why a pub with social distancing measures could be so dangerous in comparison to a restaurant.

Mr Musto said grassroots traders should be more involved in discussions.

As has become common practice in Wales, the Welsh Government is likely to notify publicans on the Friday before restrictions are formally lifted, giving little time to prepare for a definite opening.

“We need more guidance on how the reopening will work,” Mr Musto said. “For example, will we be able to serve alcohol? I assume that will have an impact on whether some reopen.

“I certainly hope the Welsh Government has learned from its mistakes in December, because that was a really unfair and misguided decision which hit this industry tremendously.”

Mr Willett and Mr Musto are expecting to reopen this month, but an end to the misery is still further away for many.

Darren and Lynne Price, who run the Castle Hotel at Tredegar, will not be reopening due to a lack of a sufficient outdoor space, and they say the funding to help traders in their position has been “rubbish”.

South Wales Argus: Lynne and Darren Price, during 'happier times' at the Castle Hotel in Tredegar

Lynne and Darren Price, during 'happier times' at the Castle Hotel in Tredegar

Since the start of the pandemic the pair have received around £45,000 in funding – with the latest £4,000 instalment arriving last month.

The Welsh Government says it will not be providing any further payments to any business until after the Senedd Elections on May 6. But in England around 700,000 businesses are set for a restart grant to help through the initial weeks of reopening.


While £45,000 might sound a lot, Mr and Mrs Price have lost upwards of £200,000 during the pandemic, usually taking £4,000 a week in a normal financial year.

Mr Price says without funding support, he struggles to see a future.

“It’s very upsetting because we live here and we don’t want to leave, but we can’t keep walking into debt,” he said.

“We were forced into this situation, so why can’t the government help to pull us out of it?

“We don’t want to keep asking for handouts. We’re sick of it, we just want a level playing field.”

Mr Willett says he feels for Mr and Mrs Price, and says it is crucial the Welsh Government rethinks its funding strategy.

“We feel we only got the £4,000 in March because we begged for it,” he said. “Our MP wrote three letters to Ken Skates [Wales' economy minister].

“We have an outdoor space, but with the restrictions set to be in place, we won’t be able to operate to a level where we’re making enough money to start paying off all that debt.

“We feel we’d be much better off in England right now with more support to get our business up and running again, and to support staff.”

Mr Musto says he feels fortunate he could turn his car park into a marquee, and says those in Mr and Mrs Price’s position should be compensated for.

“I can see why they think it’s unfair,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation and I really feel for them.”

On Friday Newport High Street restaurant Falafilo Island announced its permanent closure, with owner Oskar Ali saying he felt “helpless and lonely” throughout the pandemic.

South Wales Argus: Oskar Ali threw the towel in on his 'dream' job as owner of Falafilo Island in Newport last week

Oskar Ali threw the towel in on his 'dream' job as owner of Falafilo Island in Newport last week

Mr Musto believes simply reopening the sector will not be enough to sustain a genuine future for the city’s traders.

“We need to be involved in discussions. Who are these people making decisions on our behalf? We’d like to know,” he added.

“We need some serious thinking and diverse thinking in Newport. We can’t rely on big stores anymore.

“If you asked people visiting Newport what it had going for it, they’d be struggling for a response at the moment. The Welsh Government and the council needs to ask why that is.

“I hope to see a real café culture atmosphere born from this pandemic in the city centre.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: "We have made unprecedented levels of funding available to support Welsh businesses during these incredibly challenging times, with a full 12 month rates holiday package for those in the hardest hit sectors. To date we have provided more than £2 billion in business support during the pandemic, safeguarding 165,000 Welsh jobs.

“Our comprehensive package of financial support for Welsh businesses will continue throughout April and into May. Many businesses will already have received their full share of the £180 million funding announced in mid-March upfront to see them through until May, for others, including in the hospitality and tourism sector, cash grants will continue to be paid during April as applications are confirmed.

“Businesses will therefore see no interruption in the flow of financial support, as we move cautiously to relax public health restrictions.

“Another £200 million in additional support for business has already been earmarked in the Final Budget 2021-22. Ministers have had a constructive meeting with representatives from the hospitality sector and Welsh Government officials will work with them on options for a further support package to be put to the new Government following May’s Senedd election.”

"A pub, hotel or restaurant in Wales with ten staff would have been entitled to £45,000 in Welsh Government support to see them through from December onwards. This is on top of our business rates relief scheme and UK Government support to cover staff costs."