Some pubs and restaurants in Swansea are toughing it out and staying open

Eating out will be very different from 6pm on Friday, December 4, as restaurants and pubs swap their cocktails for mocktails.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Monday that pubs, restaurants and cafes wouldn’t be able to serve alcohol at all and would be unable to open to customers beyond 6pm from Friday, in an attempt to tackle the rise in cases of coronavirus.

Many businesses in Swansea have reacted by shutting their pubs while the alcohol ban and early closing rules continue, convinced there is no point trading in such circumstances.

However, despite a growing number deciding to close, there are still many in Swansea which are staying open if you did fancy going out for a meal in December.

Here are just some that are keeping going.

No Sign Wine Bar

General manager Becky Oliver said they’d had to adapt for so long now, they were just in the habit of adapting.

“As soon as the announcement came out and it was final we just went ‘right, non alcoholic drinks, lets get new menus in. You just instantly adapt again,” Becky said.

In normal times, the 40-year-old said the building in Wind Street held 950 people.

No Sign Wine Bar, Swansea
No Sign Wine Bar, Swansea

“This time of year it’s often quite full and it’s very alcohol driven.

“On the flip side we are lucky that we have got a busy food trade so we do have the option of staying open, I sympathise with the venues that can’t.

“From our point of view it’s worth trying, pubs are the heart of your community, some people who come into us, we are the only people they see that day.

“There are decent alcohol-free alternatives now where there weren’t before.

“I do feel like we are changing people’s behaviours, people are getting used to not going out as often, it may have a knock-on effect for the future but saying that I do think when things re-open people will automatically revert back.”

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She added: “We are really lucky with the furlough scheme so at no point we have had to make any staff redundant.

“Obviously it’s devastating for the industry, it’s particularly wet-led, I’ve stopped reacting now, but we are where we are.

“There’s still a lot of people who haven’t had the confidence to go into pubs yet and all they are seeing is pictures of crowded queues, people laying on the floor and they have got this vision in their head of the way bars look and that isn’t how pubs look now.

“There are really good pubs, restaurants and cafes and we have all done exactly what has been asked of us. We have adapted really well and created a safe and controlled environment,” she added.

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The Secret Beach Bar & Kitchen and The Optimist

The Secret Beach Bar & Kitchen
(Image: UGC)
The Optimist Bar & Kitchen
(Image: Jonathan Myers)

Owner of both restaurants, Ryan Hole, is also planning on keeping both venues open.

“The Secret is staying open, The Optimist hasn’t been open but it’s due to re-open for Christmas next week but we are still going ahead with that re-opening,” the 35-year-old said.

“We’ve got about 50 odd staff across the two venues, we had heard rumours over the weekend what was coming so we had prepared a little bit for the announcement.

“We were devastated, not only is December the most popular month of the year, it also tends to cover January and February which aren’t profitable at all because everyone is staying in.

“Maybe January will be different this year because people didn’t go out in December but people are still going to spend money on Christmas presents,” he added.

He said that one of the main reasons why they were staying open was for his staff.

“We definitely won’t make any money, we have accepted that, at best we will probably make a small loss but it’s for the staff really, to give the staff hours and money and a lot of them aren’t eligible for furlough because they recently joined, and also for a mental health point of view.

“When I spoke to them they said that they want to be in work and keep busy, we have got a lot of students who are away from their family.

“The reason why we are staying open is to give our staff hours and keep their spirits up and our customers as well.

“From a business point of view we will definitely make a loss, it’s just trying to minimise how much of a loss we make really.”

Ryan acknowledged the fact that it was a risk staying open.

“We can’t make enough money in 8 hours, especially without alcohol.

“We have invested a lot of money making sure our venues are as safe as they possibly can be and following all regulations to then get dealt with that Christmas is taken away is a real blow and some might not make it out the other side,” he said.

Old Havana, Juniper Place and Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill

Jo Roberts, marketing, events and PR manager for the group, said the businesses would be offering non alcoholic cocktails for guests to enjoy.

“We saw the 6pm curfew coming, we just didn’t see no alcohol, it’s just crazy.

“It’s frustrating because it’s going to encourage people to have house parties where it’s better for them to be in an environment like us where it’s controlled.

“We want to make memories at Christmas and there’s an opportunity to make memories with your friends and you can still go out as a four.

“We’ve got non-alcoholic menus across the brand, doing the popular cocktails like pornstar and espresso martinis but as a non-alcoholic version,” she said.

Roast chicken at the new Marco Pierre White Steakhouse in Swansea
(Image: Karen Price)
Juniper Place, Swansea
Juniper Place, Swansea
(Image: www.adrianwhitephotography.co.uk)

Jo admitted it had been such a rollercoaster for the hospitality industry, but she was hoping that people would still want to go out for a meal.

“We are trying to make strong offerings in the group to encourage people to come out still and make those memories at Christmas after a really tough year and that’s behind our decision to stay open.

“We feel that shutting our doors, we are giving in when we have such a strong food offering across our venues.

“We are hoping that our reputation will carry us through, there’s a big hole missing, being able to have a glass of wine or beer with your food is huge, that’s why we are trying to offer good quality replacements.

“Its a big challenge for us and we don’t know whether it’s going to work or not, we can try and give people some normality this December.

“With so many places closing, we are still here and open.”

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill will remain open
(Image: Adam Fradgley/Exposure)

She admitted that, due to the restrictions, staff working across all venues had seen their hours “massively reduced”.

“We know our bookings are going to be different this December to last December and that’s the heartbreaking thing. Everyone knows that December is the biggest month in hospitality.

“The prospect is frightening but we can only react the best we can and that’s what we are trying to do and stay positive,” she added.

WalesOnline – Swansea