PUB owners throughout Wales have been working round the clock and praying for sunshine ahead of reopening outdoors.
People will be able to eat and drink outside pubs, cafes, and restaurants after four months of lockdown restrictions.
For many, a pint at the local watering hole might look very different as innovative business owners have transformed their premises to cater to customers outdoors.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service spoke to three pub owners in Bridgend county borough about how they’ve remodelled their businesses to welcome back their regulars and newcomers.
Staff at the Farmers Arms, St Bridges Major, have totally revamped the business by building a wooden bar and pizza oven outside.
Clare Cox, who runs the pub with her husband, said they have “invested heavily” in the new set-up and can now accommodate around 100 customers while following social distancing.
They’ve built arbors, pergolas and installed new lighting in the beer garden, and lowered fences to give visitors “a better view” of the pond and fields surrounding the garden. Before, there was just “gravel and tables and chairs”, she said.
Although the hospitality industry can welcome customers back inside from May 17, she suspects some people will still feel safer sitting outside.
“My husband has about six different weather apps and keeps checking the weather. He’s terrified because if the rain comes, we know there won’t be a soul coming out.”
To ensure surfaces are kept clean, keep up with table service and maintain track and trace, the team will be operating with more staff than usual, she added. They’ll be serving food every day and operating on a mix of bookings and walk-ins.
She’s looking forward to welcoming people back to the pub from Monday, where there will be “Guinness and Pimms on tap” outside and blankets for customers to keep warm.
Staff at the Old House Inn, Llangynwyd have been preparing all week for the opening of a new restaurant in the garden.
A covered outdoor area has been set up at the 12th-century pub, which is one of the oldest in Wales.
Laura Williams, business development manager, said the site will look like a “stretched tent” and accommodate an outdoor restaurant, while there will also be tables and chairs in the courtyard.
“We’re trying to make the best out of a hard situation. We’re booking up quite fast.”
She said the team is also being retrained in how to follow Covid-19 regulations, which are “constantly updating”.
Earlier this year, landlord Steffan Jones submitted a planning application to the local council to build glamping pods on a field next door to the pub, which is said to have hosted the likes of Richard Burton and David Bowie. The plans are currently under review.
They’re also planning to open new bedrooms inside the pub in the next few weeks.
Sadie and Kayleigh Davies, who own The Blaenogwr in Nant-y-Moel, spent last summer installing a new wooden bar and decking outside the pub, which they said kept the business afloat during the pandemic.
Since then, they’ve added a large marquee to the beer garden with more benches and umbrellas.
The family-run pub will be open to customers for drinks from Monday and have been working non-stop over the last few months to prepare.
“Our heads are all over the place at the moment,” said Sadie. “It’s a family-run business so we’ll be running around a lot, seven days a week”.
Before the pandemic, the pub would host a mini music festival outside. Under current regulations, premises in Wales must try to avoid loud noises like singing and live performances are not permitted.
Sadie hopes the rule is a bit like being “back in school”. She hopes it will change soon so they can bring back “the whole pub atmosphere” to customers.