Pubs ready for Welsh influx as border forces half of village to stay closed
They are separated by no more than 100 metres but on Saturday the Bradford Arms will be serving customers with their first pints in months while the Dolphin’s doors will remain shut.
The question of why one Llanymynech pub will be open and one will be closed is down to the unique nature of the village, which has the England and Wales border running through the middle, and the differences in lockdown restrictions in both countries impacting either side.
For Bob Headley, 57, landlord at the Bradford Arms for the past 13 years, it’s full steam ahead with perspex screens and table service planned to welcome customers back to a pub that will feel a little different from the last time its doors were open in March.
But for John Turner, landlord at the Dolphin, which sits on the Welsh side of the border there remains frustration as he awaits the go-ahead from the country’s First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to reopen, with no indication yet as to when that may be.
It means that while he has the benefit of sitting back and watching to see how pubs manage with new ‘socially distanced bar rooms’ he is set to miss out on the first bumper opening day – with punters expected to flock through the doors at pubs across England.
Police have even said they are looking at a New Year’s Eve scenario as they plan for Saturday night in some of the county’s biggest towns.
John, 56, who has been landlord at the Dolphin for eight years, said the difference in rules between Wales and England makes little sense, and that the countries should have a united approach to reopening after lockdown.
He said: “I think it is ridiculous that we are all part of the UK yet we have suddenly decided to have separate rules.
“There is no real difference, just because there is a road between us.”
The Dolphin landlord said he hoped there would be extra financial support for those pubs that find themselves at a disadvantage come Saturday.
He said: “It is a lot of money you lose in that first weekend.”
He added: “Financially we lose money every week, every single week it is costing us hundreds of pounds and we won’t be able to bounce back as we want to because they are draining our money.
“The longer it goes on the worse it gets.
“We had a grant at the beginning of this but it was 102 days ago now.
“If we are going to be out longer than others why should we suffer the consequences?”
For Bob, a former Royal Air Force Armourer, there are different problems, as he prepares for a new-look Bradford Arms.
One thing he won’t be doing is bringing in technology such as an app for customers to pay.
He said: “I will be running on pen and paper. I know the locals and old Ted isn’t going to want to order a pint of lager on an app.
“He just wants a pint of lager. There is no point me wasting money when I am trying to recoup the money I have lost.”
He added: “I have got screens all around the bar but they won’t remain around the bar forever. When this is over they can come down.
“The barmaid will remain behind the bar and we will do the table service.”
Bob said he had sympathy for his neighbour and said it was not the first time they had faced a similar situation in the village, with the introduction of the smoking ban also coming in at different times.
He said: “Look, when the smoking ban kicked in 10 to 11 years ago the Dolphin was banned in April and we weren’t banned until September.”
Bob also said that recent incidents such as disorder seen on Welsh beaches could lead to the First Minister continuing his cautious approach.
He said: “I have seen that the Welsh minister is thinking about the 13th for over the border but if they keep doing like they have been collecting on the beaches then they just won’t open them.”
There has been one benefit of lockdown to both landlords – and the patrons – as they have been able to use the first quiet time in years to redecorate both pubs.
Bob said he was looking forward to welcoming his fellow landlord for a drink when he is open, while John joked that he would be able to see what works and what doesn’t in the new socially distant pub trade.
He added: “Llanymynech is all about the community and everyone supports everyone.
“We don’t compete, we try to help each other and good luck to them across the road, I hope they do very well. It is just a shame we can’t make money as they are!”