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Over 170 hospitality businesses from Swansea and Cardiff write joint open letter to Welsh First Minister urging action to help night time economy

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Unite For The Night has been formed by Swansea Hospitality Forum and Cardiff Licensees Forum to be a voice for the night time industry as the Welsh Government tackles the Coronavirus pandemic.

It represents over 170 independent operators across both cities as well as big industry names like Marston’s, Stonegate Group and Wetherspoons.

New figures estimate that by the time clubs can reopen, there will be between 40% and 50% fewer operating compared to pre-Covid figures. 

A report published in February by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Night Time Economy revealed 52% of nightclub staff, 36% of music venue staff, 32% of bar staff and 25% of pub staff were made redundant within the sector over the last year.

Unite For The Night say that Cardiff and Swansea have not, traditionally worked together closely on such matters, but these are times of great existential threat to the night time industry and both cities are standing shoulder to shoulder to save our nightlife across Wales.

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In an open letter to the First Minister, Mark Drakeford they urge for action to help the ‘desperate night time economy in Wales’.

The group, made up of members from Cardiff Licensees Forum and Swansea Hospitality Forum, say their members need clarity, support and a clear roadmap out of lockdown. The group say they feel this is sorely lacking from the Welsh Government at the moment and members tell them they are facing ruin.

They say that the First Minister recently announced that pubs and restaurants can open indoors from 17 May but has given no further guidelines or clarity around how we are expected to operate with social distancing in place or around financial support for those within their industry, such as nightclubs who still won’t be able to open for business.

There are also calls for a clear roadmap out of lockdown to enable businesses to plan for their survival if social distancing is likely to be in place in Wales until the end of 2021, as has been suggested by Mark Drakeford on a number of occasions.

They are also concerns that the financial support that Welsh night time businesses have been able to apply for will come to an end once businesses in the rest of the UK re-open. And, if so, what financial support will be available for Welsh night time businesses if our opening dates in Wales lag behind those in the wider UK.

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Read Unite For The Night’s open letter to Mark Drakeford here in full:

Dear First Minister
 
Firstly, congratulations on your success in the recent election to the Welsh Senedd and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this letter. We realise you have many pressing items on your agenda, post-election, but we hope you agree that the survival of the night time economy in Wales should be at the top of that list. This is particularly important at a time when rebuilding the Welsh economy is paramount.
 
Unite For The Night wrote to you before 6 May to express the deep concerns of our 170 members, who are at the helm of night time businesses in Cardiff, Swansea and beyond,  about the very difficult circumstance our night time economy continues to face here in Wales.


The situation is particularly dire for our clubs and venues, with many having been lost to the pandemic already. We hope you received our letter and have given it your close attention. As you know, the entire night time industry has been hit particularly hard by the country’s many lockdowns – the majority of our pubs, bars and restaurants have now been shut for the majority of the last year, and nightclubs are one of the few businesses that have been forced to close for the entirety of the Covid crisis.

Even when certain restrictions have been eased for some types of hospitality businesses, ongoing curfews along with limits to the ability to sell alcohol and the need to distance tables or to serve customers outdoors, has continued to hamper any recovery that the night time industry might enjoy.
 
We are particularly attuned to the dire situation our clubs and night time music venues face. As yet, they have no mooted date for re-opening. We find this situation staggering and we would urge you to address this urgently. England has set an opening date for its night time businesses of 21 June. Can you tell our members why venues in Wales don’t have a date to work towards, particularly in light of the success of the Liverpool pilot event?


We are also very concerned that the Welsh Government is clinging to the two-metre social distancing rule and blanket mask-wearing and you have stated on a number of occasions that social distancing will persist in Wales until the end of the year.  Even if night time businesses were to be given an opening date, these ongoing restrictions would make reopening unviable for clubs and venues.

Unite For The Night puts it to you that these businesses have already been able to operate safely and they have evidenced this to you, but this evidence has been largely ignored by Welsh Government. Our night time businesses routinely use air exchange equipment which gives them a safer operating environment – this is something retail businesses have been allowed to open without. We are very experienced when it comes to managing people-focused businesses safely, but this is being overlooked. If our valuable night time economy businesses are to have any chance of survival, they also need continued financial support. Our members tell us of the crippling debts they are burdened with – with no light at the end of the tunnel.
 
The partial lifting of restrictions for some hospitality businesses on 17 May is welcome, but, as you know, these businesses have been given no clarity or direction on what the conditions for this re-opening will be.
 
For example:
 
– How many households will be able to book tables?
– How many people will be allowed to sit at tables?
 
Of course, we understand that the safety of consumers in Wales is paramount, and it is important that our night life does not reopen fully before it is safe to do so. However, our 170 members across Cardiff and Swansea are finding it increasingly hard to understand why there is such a hesitancy from Welsh Government to create a detailed guide for our industry when England has been given a very clear roadmap. 


We understand the desire for caution and the imperative need for this to be the last lockdown we ever face, but if other sectors can be given clarity on how and when they can operate, the night time economy deserves to be treated with the same respect.
 
We feel we are dangling on the end of a string with countless jobs and livelihoods in Wales hanging in the balance. The night time economy is the UK’s fifth-biggest industry, accounting for at least eight percent of the UK’s employment and for annual revenues of £66b. Many of the hard-working men and women who run our clubs, pubs and venues here in Wales are facing ruin and are considering leaving the industry if they don’t receive a credible roadmap for the easing of social distancing that might make their businesses viable once more.
 
Our members need to make decisions about their businesses and desperately need clarity on:
– What are the conditions for re-opening on 17 May, particularly around social distancing?
– The opening date for clubs and venues
– Will social distancing and mask-wearing remain in force?
– What financial support is on offer for the night time sector – can you confirm a Restart Grant, similar to those announced for England and Scotland?
 

Our members are key investors in their local economies, they are key employers of bar staff, chefs, performers, sound and lighting engineers, promotors and others; and our night time businesses provide safe, enjoyable recreation for millions of us. Without the clarity they so desperately need, many are considering leaving the sector for good.

We hope you will agree that the industry is worth protecting for the future. Wales’ towns and cities without functioning and thriving night time businesses are soulless places for residents and visitors alike. We are, thankfully, entering into a more positive period now, with the success of the vaccine rollout and the steady fall in the number of people in Wales contracting Covid.

We hope this gives you the impetus you need to give clear and emphatic direction on this matter – the survival of many hundreds of night time businesses depends upon it. We urge you to consider the grave concerns and the threatened livelihoods of our 170 members and their employees, and we look forward to hearing your views on this matter.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Unite For the Night
Unite For The Night represents over 170 businesses in Swansea and Cardiff. Visit www.uniteforthenight.com
 

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Food & Drink

Winner winner, weekday dinners: Morrisons introduces midweek dinners for under a fiver in its cafés

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Amidst the cost of living crisis, supermarket giant Morrisons is introducing a ‘meal of the day’ for under a fiver to its cafés nationwide.

Every weekday from 3pm, a ‘Daily Special’ will be discounted, offering a saving of up to £3.89 on the individual product price.

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The meal on offer will rotate each day and customers can choose from British roast chicken served with chips and coleslaw, a hearty chicken tikka masala, a 9-piece breakfast brunch, a succulent British cheeseburger served with chips and coleslaw and the ultimate beer-battered fish and chips.

The offer includes a drink and vegetarian alternatives are also available.

Each meal will be priced at £4.99, which the supermarket chain says makes them cheaper than the same evening meals at Wetherspoons, Harvester and Beefeater.

Morrisons also say that kids can also eat free all day with the purchase of any adult meal, meaning a family of four can enjoy a meal out together for just £9.98.

Ali Lyons, Head of Morrisons Cafés, says: “We know how hard it is for our customers at the moment and we want to make sure they are still able to enjoy a meal out, even on a budget. We’ve handpicked these favourites so that no matter what day it is, our customers can enjoy a saving.”

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Morrisons £4.99 offer will be available in its 406 cafés nationwide after 3pm every weekday. The ‘Daily Specials’ on offer are:

MondayRoast Chicken served with Chips & Coleslaw or Cheese & Onion Quiche served with Chips & Coleslaw 
TuesdayChicken Tikka Masala or Mac ‘n’ Cheese 
WednesdayBreakfast Brunch or Full Vegetarian Breakfast 
ThursdayCheeseburger served with Chips & Coleslaw  or Vegetarian burger served with Chips & Coleslaw 
FridayUltimate Fish & Chips

(Lead image: Morrisons)

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Food & Drink

Proposal to ban tea and coffee for under 16s in Wales branded ‘illiberal’

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photo of person s hand pouring liquid to cup

Proposals to consider banning the sale of tea and coffee to under-16s in Wales have been labelled ‘outrageously illiberal’ by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Welsh Labour Government reportedly confirmed that it is considering the move as part of plans to make young people healthier and stop rising obesity rates.

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The move comes as the Welsh Government raise concerns of the rising consumption of high-caffeine energy drinks among young people is also causing concern about the effects on their education.

Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “It is beggars’ belief that this is even under consideration.

“We are all aware obesity is a serious problem in Wales and it is important that we take action to reduce the levels across Wales.

“However, it doesn’t take an expert consultation to realise that tea and coffee are not responsible for high obesity levels.

“It would be outrageously illiberal to ban the sale of coffee and tea to under 16-year-olds, something which they regularly drink themselves at home.”

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(Lead image: Elina Fairytale / Pexels.com)

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Food & Drink

Tesco makes it even easier for Swansea shoppers to help local food banks and charities

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Tesco is making it easier than ever for shoppers to give a helping hand to food banks and charities feeding people in their local community, with ready-prepared donation bags at local stores in Swansea this summer.

The Tesco Food Collection is taking place in every large Tesco store across the UK from Thursday, June 30 until Saturday, July 2, and shoppers are being urged to donate long-life food to support local food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network and thousands of frontline charities supplied by FareShare. Tesco will top up all food donations made during the collection with an extra 20% cash donation to support the two charities.

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The pre-filled donation bags, available during the collection, will contain items that are most-needed by the local Trussell Trust foodbank or frontline charities supplied by FareShare. Shoppers will be able to scan the contents at the till as part of their usual shop before dropping the bag into the food collection donation trolley.

It is one of a number of new ways that customers can give their support during this summer’s food collection. Shoppers can also for the first time round up their bill at the checkout to make a small donation to both the charities.

From this week it is also easier for customers who shop in Express stores to support the charities, with new permanent donation points being placed in every Tesco Express store in the UK for the first time, meaning shoppers will now be able to donate at Express stores year-round. Shoppers can also donate their Tesco Clubcard points online to either of the charities.

Tesco’s Pre-filled donation bags

Tesco Head of Community Claire de Silva said, “This collection marks ten years of us working with the Trussell Trust and FareShare. During that decade our customers have been amazingly generous, donating more than 100 million meals during our food collections and at permanent collection points in stores. This summer we wanted to make it even easier for customers to donate as we know that every can donated really does help.”

Donations are more important than ever as the charities have reported increasing need for food.

Sarah Germain, CEO at FareShare Cymru, said: “Our charities are telling us that the need for food has vastly increased as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, and over the last year we’ve continued to deliver four meals every second to people facing food insecurity across the UK.

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“That’s why we would be immensely grateful to anyone who is able to donate a bag of pasta or tin of vegetables over the Tesco Food Collection weekend – your generous donations will help us continue providing vital support to families struggling to cope this summer.”

Danni Malone, Director of Network Programmes and Innovation at the Trussell Trust added: “Every year, we are amazed by the generosity of Tesco customers who donate to the Food Collection.

“We know that many families on the very lowest incomes have been forced to the doors of food banks to get by, as the nation faces a rapid rise in the cost of living and continues to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. So, once again, we are calling on shoppers to give generously and make a difference to people who need our support over the coming weeks and months.”

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