Lockdown: Pubs to stay open after 10pm for 'orderly close'

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A woman pulling a pint wearing a maskImage source, Getty Images
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Pubs and restaurants will have flexibility over closing time

Pubs in Wales will not have to close at 22:00 as was thought - but will have to stop serving alcohol at this time.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said this will allow an "orderly close" rather than people rushing to "drink up" or "eat up".

On Tuesday, Mr Drakeford announced a raft of rules to combat coronavirus and said pubs and restaurants would close at 22:00 from Thursday.

However, he clarified the situation in the Senedd on Wednesday.

He said a strict 22:00 closure would cause "real damage" to restaurants that had already adopted their business model for coronavirus.

The move means rules are now different to England, where pubs and restaurants must close at that time.

Mr Drakeford said he had made the change after speaking to representatives of the hospitality industry.

He said many had planned the evening so they could have two sittings of people during the evening, perhaps at 19:00 and 21:00.

"We could have had an approach in Wales, where at 10 o'clock all those people were required to leave and stand on the pavement," Mr Drakeford said.

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"We cannot let the virus take hold of our lives again"

"I think that would have caused real damage to that business model that people have worked so hard to put in place.

"Our system will allow people to drink up, to eat up, to bring their evening to an orderly close and then make their way home."

He said this is how "the vast majority of people" act on an evening out anyway and said: "I didn't want to make their lives more difficult."

Mr Drakeford added he hopes revellers do not consider the 22:00 deadline as a "race" to drink as much alcohol as they can.

Image source, Getty Images
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From Thursday pubs, cafes and restaurants in Wales must stop serving at 22:00 every night

He also warned people leaving pubs to go to a party at home would be breaking the law and they could face further action.

Only six people can meet indoors in Wales and they have to be in the same extended household - Mr Drakeford said police would be able to fine those that broke the rule.

He denied stopping alcohol sales at 22:00 was a "stab in the dark", saying there was evidence from Wales' local lockdown areas that a "small minority of people, late in the evening, when a lot of alcohol has been consumed, behave in ways that cause a risk to other people".

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Lara Joslin said The King's Head has already had cancellations following the new restrictions

Lara Joslin, landlady of the King's Head in Llangennith, Gower, had raised concerns about a strict 10pm close.

She said it would "be a problem" getting people out by that time, saying the pub may not be able to do a second sitting.

This was because, if someone sat down at 20:30, they may not have finished their dessert by 10pm.

Speaking of her restaurant, she said: "Getting people out at 10pm will be a problem. We might not be able to do a second sitting because we can't have people sitting down at 20:30 and having desserts."

'Blow for late evening culture'

The Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective, which represents 300 businesses, said in a statement barriers to viable trading were now "immense".

It cited the reduced number of customers allowed, limitations on staff numbers in kitchens and the rule of only six people from one extended household.

"The 10pm rule will be crushing for some businesses, particularly in city centres where there is a late evening culture and two sittings in an evening will not now be possible," it said.