The Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC), which represents more than 300 cafés, pubs and restaurants across Wales, has sent an urgent letter to Welsh government ministers asking for clarity on proposals to impose a ‘circuit breaker’ shutdown of hospitality. The letter is co-signed by Brains Brewery and Castell Howell.
The letter highlights that any decision taken by the Welsh government on whether to enforce the circuit break in Wales will have very a direct and profound impact on thousands of Welsh businesses and jobs, and, as such, urgent and immediate support is now essential to their survival.
Natalie Issac, of the 44 Group, and one of the founding members of the collective, said: “The WIRC has previously raised concerns that hospitality businesses have been unduly singled out in the government’s approach to tackling Covid 19, when it remains our firm belief that licensed premises remain safe places for members of the public to meet as long as all guidance and regulations are followed to keep staff and customers safe, and provided there is an effective track and trace system.”
Alistair Darby, chief executive of Brains Brewery, added: “We welcome the first minister’s recent comments, and those of the health minister, which recognised that there is no significant evidence of transmission emanating from hospitality businesses, yet, a circuit-break shut down of hospitality is now being considered. We have written to Welsh government to raise our grave and urgent concerns that this will be the death knell for many in our sector if immediate support is not provided.”
Simon Wright, of Wright’s Food Emporium said: “We have never tried to second guess the scientific advice, and we’ve worked incredibly hard to implement the safety measures agreed with Welsh government.
‘We need to make sure that the impact on all affected workers is considered and mitigated’
“We must not forget, though, that it is a Welsh government decision to close us, and potentially this means the end of many businesses and jobs. Today our employees are asking: what’s the plan? How will we pay our rent? Will we have jobs to come back to? Is the idea to get the numbers down to a point where we can lift some restrictions on re-opening? What’s the support package?
The first minister needs to be able to answer all of these questions when he makes an announcement, including how UK-wide job support measures will work in Wales. He must directly address businesses and their staff, who are currently in a state of great anxiety, and explain how they can get through this. That is his responsibility.”
Shavanah Taj, general secretary of the TUC in Wales, said action needed to be taken to make sure workers were not left unsupported. “It’s not just those directly employed by venues who could be left without a wage, but people in a range of jobs, including freelance musicians and artists. The impact this is having on associated industries, like suppliers and taxi drivers, for example, cannot be ignored either.
“Welsh Government has done a great deal to support these workers, including through their Freelancer Fund, but we need to make sure that the impact on all affected workers is considered and mitigated when any new restrictions are introduced, and avoid job losses and business closures at all cost.”