'The Cardiff hospitality scene has the resilience to see us through this turbulence': Alex Mills, Lab 22

Imbibe

Imbibe

21 October 2020

As Wales' firebreak lockdown quickly approaches, Alex Mills (GM at Cardiff bar Lab 22) tells Imbibe it's a 'welcome relief' after the 10pm curfew

'From 23 October at 6pm, bars and restaurants in Wales will be ordered to close to restrict the spread of coronavirus. This means for us, and many other independent bars in Cardiff, we’ll be closing our doors for at least two weeks.

'Contrary to popular opinion, at Lab 22 it’s come as a welcome relief to have a definitive decision on lockdown guidelines. Since the implementation of the 10pm curfew we’ve noticed a distinct disadvantage to bars like ourselves to work within this limit.

'Not only have we lost our most crucial time for service, we have also been unable to accommodate our regulars from hospitality who would fill up our bar after a long day and unwind.

The Cardiff hospitality scene has the resilience and community within its homegrowns to see us through this turbulence

'The restrictions as a whole are in danger of homogenising the bar culture in Cardiff, running the risk that only the chains with the big money will have the pockets deep enough to weather the storm. From what we’ve experienced so far, however, there’s been huge support from people understanding the plight and the importance of the indy bar.

'We do believe that the Cardiff hospitality scene has the resilience and community within its homegrowns to see us through this turbulence. 

'Short term, with the doors closed and the seats vacant, we'll use this time to plan events, create short menus, test new ingredients and strategise how to raise our online presence. Just because there’s no revenue, doesn’t mean we can’t produce wealth. 

'Support so far has been vague. The leading consensus is that the new 67% furlough will begin in Wales from the 23rd, relieving the pressure of staff costs. The 10pm curfew had knocked down our hourly staff to 70%/75% of their usual working week anyhow.

Not only have we lost our most crucial time for service, we have also been unable to accommodate our regulars from hospitality who would fill up our bar after a long day and unwind

'There are also plans for grants to be available to small businesses for up to £5,000 and a one-off payment of £1,000 for businesses having to close for the circuit break. Without definitive plans on these however, it’s yet to be seen how accessible these will be for independents and its likely that these will be allocated well after the circuit break has passed.

'The biggest concern for us are the regulations after this circuit break. We are forecasting a big upturn in trade heading into Christmas and the laxity of the restrictions are paramount. 

'I have no doubt Lab 22 and our fellow bars have the hardiness to make it through this. Most of our bartenders have worked a rugby day in the city or have had to deal with Dave from Merthyr’s stag do on more than one occasion. A total economic recession should be a doddle.'

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