Friday night in Cardiff as pubs and restaurants told to close at 6pm

Families and friends were out and about across Wales on Friday to make the most of the last few hours before new lockdown restrictions started at 6pm.

Under the new rules, all cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants had to close their doors at 6pm on Friday, December 4. The Welsh Government said this is not last orders at 6pm, but the entire premises closing at 6pm.

As well as the 6pm curfew, alcohol sales are now prohibited at any time of the day. The restrictions will be reviewed on Thursday, December 17 and then every three weeks after that.

(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)
Police in Cardiff city centre on Friday
(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)
(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)

The new restrictions have come as a devastating blow to the hospitality sector which relies heavily on the Christmas period for revenue.

So much so, that dozens of pubs have announced they will not be opening for the duration of the restrictions. Wales’ biggest brewer, Brains, described the rules as “insulting”.

Speaking at the Welsh Government’s press conference on Friday, the First Minister refused to rule out even more restrictions if the current measures fail to bring the virus under control.

Mark Drakeford said he was “certain” the current restrictions were correct.

This is what Cardiff city centre was like on Thursday when pubs and restaurants had to close at 10pm.

On Friday, restaurants and bars were starting to take in their outdoor tables and chairs in their last hour of service.

Sitting outside Chance Encounter on High Street, Martin Noone was having one last drink before the alcohol ban came into force. He said the majority were being punished because of a few not following regulations.

(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)
(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)

“It’s illogical. It’s illogical because it will drive the youngsters back home whereas the people who are responsible can’t carry on,” said Martin.

“The older people who are being responsible are having to pay the price for the younger people going crazy until 10pm and now nobody can have fun responsibly.

“We’re penalising 99% of the population to protect one and I just think that’s crazy.”

Over at the Borough pub, further up Castle Street, nurse Kath Jones was enjoying the final few minutes up to kicking out time at 6pm.

She said that while the decision will be difficult for many, she thinks it was “absolutely the right thing to do”.

“I think the Welsh Government are following the science and it’s the right thing to do.

“It’s a difficult decision but I think we are making the right decision,” she said.

“Of course I’m hoping they’ll open back up for Christmas but only if it is safe to do so. We believe this is the right thing to do, as harsh as it is.”

(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)
(Image: Getty Images)
(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)

While some venues had outdoor seating available, most venues on Cardiff’s busiest streets were fully booked with people looking to make the most of their last bit of freedom before the new restrictions.

To add to the atmosphere, the festivities were in full force with dozens of people queueing for the ‘Christmas in the Castle’ event and wandering the markets.

“We came out at 1pm. We were thinking it’s just about the earliest we can come out before it all closes at 6pm. It’s how it is, so we’re abiding by it.”

Outside the Philharmonic bar friends Lucy Scone and Emily Mustoe were having a last catch up just before 6pm when it was time to head home.

“I think it is stricter than what we were expecting. I think we were expecting maybe 8pm which is in between but 6pm I think it is very harsh especially when people’s meal times are around six and also with people working,” said Lucy.

(Image: Getty Images)
(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)

When asked if it she thought the new regulations were a good idea, Emily said she wasn’t so sure. “I think maybe closing at six is right but I don’t think the total alcohol ban is needed, I don’t really understand why they can’t serve alcohol until six.

“Everywhere I’ve been have been amazing in abiding by restrictions. If anyone goes near another table they will ask you to go back to yours, it’s all felt safe.

“I think it’s really harsh on the hospitality industry at this time of year.”

Do you agree with the Welsh Government’s new coronavirus measures? Leave your comments here.

Over the road at Kiwis on St Mary Street, friends Bill Mannings and Michael Marden were waiting for a bus home after having to leave the pub at 6pm.

“I think it’s stupid. You go down to Tesco and I think you’re safer coming in here washing your hands and being forced to sit down rather than being pushed in front of at the supermarket,” said Bill.

“They’ve gone much too far. I don’t think it’ll help. There’s nothing stopping me getting on a train tomorrow and going to Worcester and going to a pub there.”

Michael Marden has been battling cancer for four years and said he will struggle mentally without being able to see friends in the pub each week.

(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)
(Image: WALES NEWS SERVICE)
(Image: Wales News Service)

“I’ve got my wife and my kids but I love to come here and see the boys and have a beer. It’s going to batter our mental health, not being able to meet up.

“I was shielding for months but as soon as I was allowed to meet friends safely I did for my mental health. This decision has hurt me.”

As the last customers finish their drinks, police vans start patrolling St Mary Street.

By 6pm the only people indoors are the staff cleaning down.

At the bottom of High Street, bar owner Alexander Taylor and a few members of staff are cleaning and getting rid of excess alcohol supply ahead of the restrictions.

Video Loading

Alex’s bar Pennyroyal decided not to open on Friday and won’t open while these new rules are in place.

“The sad thing about all these indefinite closures is the amount of wastage – alcohol and anything we’ve prepped – it all just had to be binned.

“It’s the expenses that people don’t think about, constant perishable goods. We’re lucky we don’t have as many beer lines as some places, the amount of beer that’s going to get wasted this weekend is insane.”

Alexander said he has yet to see evidence that the hospitality industry is to blame for the spread of the virus.

“We’ve not been given any logical reasoning behind these decisions other than ‘drunk people don’t act responsibly’, but closing bars, just like the 10pm curfew, is not going to stop people going home and getting drunk together.

“This virus is going to spread much quicker in houses than it does in bars.

“When we are restriction free – in the sense of local lockdowns and the sort – it really works. But the thing is since March we’ve only had around eight weeks of trading like that. It’s not enough.

“I think one of the worst things is how the information is getting to us. We heard whispers last Friday that these new regulations would be announced on Monday.

“You then have to protect the mental wellbeing of your staff who have to then work that weekend worried about job security and if their job is on the line coming up to Christmas.”

Further down the street, The Libertine Bar, run by Marius Sakaliunas, was also closed on Friday. Marius said the atmosphere on Thursday night was “brilliant” as people enjoyed their last full evening out.

“December is always the busiest part of the year for the whole hospitality industry which does make things more uncertain than they could be.

“Last night (Thursday) was brilliant. Everyone was happy and supportive. Everyone was aware it might be the last time they can go out for a drink for a long time so it was a good atmosphere.

“I’m not a scientist so I don’t know what to think but at the same time I think Welsh Government as well as the UK Government would struggle to provide anyone with solid facts that would link coronavirus cases to hospitality venues so naturally we come to the conclusion that it is a bit harsh at this time of year.

“At the same time I do hope that these extra restrictions will actually save lives. If that’s what it takes then we will take the bullet for it.”

Mr Drakeford said the measures were based on advice from the UK’s Sage group of scientific advisers.

WalesOnline – Cardiff