image captionThe rule of six has been extended to indoor hospitality from Monday
Up to six people from different households will be able to meet indoors at pubs, cafes and restaurants in Wales from Monday.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed indoor hospitality can reopen from 17 May as Wales’ Covid case rate continues to fall.
Extra cash support for hospitality businesses still affected by Covid restrictions has also been announced.
Mr Drakeford said the funding would “support firms and safeguard jobs”.
The support is available to businesses such as pubs, clubs, restaurants and late-night entertainment venues.
They can claim up to £25,000 to help them through to the end of June, as they prepare for re-opening and more normal trading conditions.
The news comes after calls from some in the hospitality industry for all significant restrictions on trading to be lifted before July.
In England pubs will also open indoors on Monday, with people from different households or not in a bubble having to stay one metre apart.
When they reopen in Wales, six people from any households will be able to meet, but those who do not live together, or who are not in bubbles, will have to socially distance, with the rule being two metres apart.
Numbers have been increased from the four people set out in the Welsh government’s lockdown easing plan.
BBC Wales understands this was changed to make it easier to enforce, bringing it into line with beer garden rules, and indoor meeting drinking rules in England.
Sarah John, of Boss Brewery in Swansea, said while she was “breathing a sigh of relief” to reopen indoors, many small pubs would not be able to reopen unless the two-metre rule was reconsidered.
“Capacity-wise you can get a lot fewer people in, for some small venues it might not be feasible… ideally we would have liked to have seen that taken down to one metre as well,” she said.
Ms John said she hoped the Welsh government would reduce social distancing at the next lockdown briefing on Friday, and the industry needed clarity for the future.
“The back and forth has been difficult… it’s very important to be on the home straight, we want to see some commitment from Mark Drakeford on when we will be totally restriction free,” she said.
Paul Slater, landlord of the Trotting Mare Inn in Overton-on-Dee, which is right on the Welsh-English border said he was delighted to open indoors, after two weeks of “hit and miss weather” with customers sitting outside with hot water bottles and blankets.
He said the two-metre social distancing rule would mean numbers able to sit indoors would halve from 72, and would be a “balancing act”.
“In the week it won’t make too much of a difference, but at weekends we are going to be very limited… We have a lot of drinkers at a weekend, so it’s a balancing act between reserving tables for drinkers or people eating,” he told Radio Wales Breakfast.
image captionRobin Fitzpatrick and Sabine Löeber said while they were sure many patrons would come back, some may return less frequently
At the Cross Keys in Penrhynside, near Llandudno, Conwy county, landlords Robin Fitzpatrick and Sabine Löeber said they had concerns people’s habits might have changed during lockdown.
They said people may have saved money while being unable to go out, and want to spend money in their homes, and it may led to a “slow recovery”.
Due to social-distancing measures, the pub had temporarily got rid of its pool table to sit more people inside, but they said even then numbers would be reduced by a third.
However the couple said they had not considered staying closed.
“We are a community pub, so long as we break even and provide a service…we are doing what we are passionate about,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
image captionAmy Wilson will keep groups to a maximum of four indoors at her premises
Amy Wilson, who runs her grandfather’s business Elmers Cafe, on Crwys Road in Cardiff, said they would be sticking to four people per table indoors because the cafe did not have a large area.
“If there are six people then we’ll encourage them to sit outside,” she said.
“Our customer base includes students, builders and older local people. We have a 91-year-old regular called Bryn. He comes in every day and has a tea and toast.
“But it’s been so sad seeing him having a takeaway and eating outside, sometimes even in the rain. We put a little chair out there for him. It’ll be nice to have him coming back inside.”
‘We shouldn’t have to police it’
image captionMarco Orsi, who runs the Café Royale in Pontypridd, said social distancing needed to be reduced to the same rules as in England
After being closed since 18 December, Marco Orsi said he was looking forward to reopening his café in Pontypridd and said he hoped people would be “queueing out the door”.
He said that he believed cafes should have been allowed to open indoors weeks ago, when non-essential shops pulled up their shutters.
“What we will be opening up to is a slight question mark…with the town centres, but I am confident, in due course, that things will get back to normal,” he said.
He added he believed it was customers’ own responsibility to social distance and business owners should not be made to police it.
“People should know how to behave now, if they don’t I’m not going to educate them, we will keep social distancing, but I don’t expect to police it myself,” he said.
‘The next few weeks will be great’
image captionSophia Joannides said the last year had been a rollercoaster, with the family-run business having to adapt to survive the pandemic
Sophia Joannides, Owner of Bluebell Coffee and Kitchen in Tycôch, Swansea, said she was excited to see all her regulars again, some who had not visited for over a year due to having to shield.
“Outside dining hasn’t really worked for us due to our lovely Welsh weather, we are lucky we have quite a bit of space inside Bluebell, but we are still working on a very reduced capacity,” she said.
“Our customers are the most loyal and supportive, so we know the next few weeks will be great.”
Supply chain firms, events and conference venues not covered by the Welsh government’s Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) can also apply for support.
Mr Drakeford said the cash announced was part of a £200m package earmarked for the incoming Welsh government to help businesses affected by the pandemic.
“We know the restrictions have helped to keep us all safe but they have had a big impact on Welsh businesses, which is why we are making more funding available to support firms and safeguard jobs,” he said.
As leader of Welsh Labour, Mr Drakeford had faced criticism during the Senedd election campaign for not announcing the extra financial support for the hospitality sector.
At the time, he said “election rules” prevented him from releasing the cash – and the move did not apparently harm Labour’s chances of being re-elected last week.
Hospitality businesses which can apply for this funding include pubs, clubs, restaurants, nightclubs, late night entertainment venues, supply chain firms, events and conference venues not covered by the Welsh government’s Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF).
The government said an “eligibility checker” would open on the Business Wales website at midday on 17 May so businesses can find out how much support they are likely to be entitled to and how to apply.
Mr Drakeford added: “The public health situation continues to improve in Wales – we have the lowest coronavirus rates and the best vaccination rates in the UK.”
Wales’ route out of lockdown
The relaxation is the latest development in the Welsh government’s route out of the lockdown imposed last year to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Gyms, swimming pools and community centres have already reopened while cinemas, theatres and museums are also due to reopen from 17 May, though with strict social-distancing rules still in place.
Covid rates across Wales fall
The news came as only six Welsh council areas reported deaths involving Covid-19 in the latest week of figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Deaths overall were also below normal levels for a ninth week in succession.
The number of deaths where Covid was mentioned on death certificates dropped to seven in the week ending 30 April – half the previous week’s total and the lowest for more than seven months.
These accounted for 1.2% of all registered deaths in Wales.
It is a further indication of the retreat of Covid, which has resulted in low case numbers and falling hospital cases.
The trend has been for a steady decline in deaths and the weekly total is 93% fewer than registered two months ago.
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