Restaurants write to first minister asking for roadmap for reopening

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The coronavirus outbreak could be devastating for the hospitality industry

About 70 independent restaurants and food businesses have asked the first minister to help secure the survival of the sector.

The collective of businesses, ranging from street food vendors to Michelin-starred chefs, wrote to Mark Drakeford with a list of proposals.

The letter calls for a “clear timeline” and roadmap for reopening.

The Welsh Government thanked the sector for its “resilience”, but said changes would only be made “when it is safe”.

The letter suggests there is “real concern that Wales will be left behind” compared to other parts of the UK”.

“Scottish government have told the tourism and hospitality industry to prepare for reopening on 15th July, clearly subject to public health evidence,” it says.

“We believe that it is essential that Wales now follows suit in setting out a clear timescale for re-opening for our sector, and engages with us quickly in setting the guidelines and roadmap for that. We make practical suggestions in this letter for how to do that.”

The range of measures includes a timeline for reopening, a reduction of social distancing to one metre, a flexible furlough scheme and further business rates relief.

‘Part of the fabric of Welsh life’

Spokesman Simon Wright said the restaurant industry in Wales accounted for 135,000 primary and secondary jobs, often in communities where there was very little alternative employment.

“We source and promote Welsh food and drink products from local suppliers to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds each week,” he said.

“Our venues are visible to everyone. They are on our high streets, the focal points of our villages, the centre of our cities.

“They are places people celebrate together, grieve together, and share important personal and cultural experiences; in short they are part of the fabric of Welsh life.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “We’d like to put on record our thanks and appreciation to the sector for the resilience and creativity it is showing during this pandemic and the contribution it has made to ensuring people are still able to safely access good quality, fresh produce.

“The coronavirus lockdown measures in Wales are in place to limit the spread of the virus and save lives. Ministers review all the restrictions in place every 21 days – and then decide what, if anything, can be changed. Changes will only be made when it is safe to do so.”

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