Starting December 26, Wales will introduce new social distancing rules and restrictions on venue capacities. Among those distressed by the move are managers of live music venues, as they fear the order will place further strain on the entertainment industry’s future.
In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 as the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc, no more than six punters will be allowed to convene in venues such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants and other hospitality and entertainment hotspots.
Licensed venues that remain open will only be permitted to offer table service; all patrons will need to wear face masks and provide details for contact tracing. There won’t be any restrictions on small meetings in private dwellings, the BBC reports, but outdoor events will be capped at 50 punters, and indoor events at 30. For all public spaces, two-metre social distancing rules will be enforced.
There will be exceptions for smaller-scale sporting events – which will allow up to 50 spectators – and events tailored towards children. Personal events, such as weddings, funerals and wakes, will also be exempt from the new rules.
Speaking to NME today (December 23), Angie Evans – who mans the ship at Cardiff’s Fuel Rock Club – said the entertainment sector was looking dismal enough as it was before the new rules came into effect. “We’ve had a steady decline in business over the past couple of weeks, peaking at a 50 per cent downturn over the past weekend,” she said.
“It’s disappointing because we were only just getting back to normal trading figures, and it’s worrying because we’ve made losses over the past couple of weeks when we’re already in a poor position financially. The decline has been due to a variety of factors: gig cancellations, customers worrying about catching COVID, and customers actually being COVID-positive and so unable to attend. We understand people’s uncertainty and worry, and we empathise.”
Welsh business owners will be offered respite in the form of a government relief initiative, with a total of £120million set aside for nightclubs, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses. Evans told NME she was “thankful” for the government’s financial aid, but stressed that it was “nowhere near enough”.
“I’m very worried that we’ll be forced to trade under social distancing restrictions as this means that we’ll continue to make a loss and won’t be offered financial assistance,” she said. “Having successfully battled through the last 18 months, it’s a demoralising and daunting prospect. I’m very worried about our ability to keep staff employed and to keep the business going.”
As for hopes for live music returning soon in 2022, she added: “Many touring bands have already postponed their tours to avoid January, as I think that many of us are doubting that gigs will be allowed to go ahead. As a grassroots venue, this is a real blow. We survive for, and because of, the music. Without it, we are just another regular pub competing with all the other regular pubs in the city centre. We lose our unique selling point.”
Last month, COVID passes were made mandatory to gain access to cinemas, theatres and concert venues across Wales. Proof of full vaccination or a negative test had been mandatory to visit nightclubs in Wales since October 11, but the rules were recently extended to cover other venues.