Friday sees Wales, in essence, become a ‘dry’ country as the First Minister’s alcohol ban comes into force, while the very next day is Small Business Saturday.
The irony of this coincidence is not lost as more and more pubs, cafes and restaurants announce that they are shutting for the winter as the rules and 6pm curfew make it impossible for them to survive.
Shutting their doors for winter are rugby clubs and village pubs; beating hearts of communities across Wales. No longer will they offer warmth, social interaction and an escape from a difficult year. From Friday, the lights will be turned off and ‘see you next year’ signs hung from front doors.
The hospitality sector is a key part of the economy. It offers jobs, supports the wider supply chain and good pubs and restaurants bring people into an area, helping support other businesses.
Nationwide campaign ‘Small Business Saturday’ shines a spotlight on all businesses that make our towns and high streets vibrant. Not only the hospitality sector but the independent cobbler, the family-run newsagents and everything in between. Our communities are better places for having small business-owning industrious people, working hard to serve their community.
And while we all may be acutely aware of the difficulties that high streets and town centres have faced in recent years from the growth of out-out-town retail and online shopping, the pandemic has renewed people’s focus on supporting local.
We should act to capture this renewed feeling and build upon it to help these businesses. Business rates for town centres and high streets need to be cut. Support given for those entrepreneurs who are willing to take the risk and start their own business. We need to show that we are on the side of business because it is clear and evident that Labour are not.
Thirty-six hours the ERF Phase 3 grant application stayed open. Thirty-six hours for a business, struggling to get by, to get the information required to meet criteria they had no advance sight of. Business left feeling frustrated, angry and their concerns left unheard. They do matter, and a Welsh Conservative Government in Cardiff would make sure that businesses are not only heard but listened to.
With the Pfizer vaccine rollout imminent, the light at the end of the tunnel brightens and we dare to dream of normality once again. Hope returns that tomorrow, next week, next month and next year will be better than what has been before it. But for many hospitality businesses, the First Minister’s ‘last orders’ call on Friday may be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Samuel Kurtz is a Pembrokeshire County Councillor and the Welsh Conservative Senedd candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.