AS WALES’ hospitality sector gets set to call time once more on its attempted recovery from what has been a brutal year, a national body has labelled the new measures “devastating and draconian”.

After two lockdowns, curfews and a slew of debilitating restrictions, Welsh pubs, restaurants and cafes will be banned from serving alcohol from Friday and will be unable to open to customers beyond 6pm.

Businesses can offer a takeaway service after 6pm and, if they have an off-licence, can sell takeaway alcohol up until 10pm.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the new rules earlier this week to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases. Restrictions will be reviewed on December 17.

Nik Antona, UK chairman of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), said the latest measures could be the “final straw” for pubs and breweries.

“Restrictions that force hundreds of pubs to close and devastate trade for those able to remain open to serve meals could be the final straw for Welsh pubs and the breweries that supply them,” said Mr Antona, who represents the independent organisation that promotes real ales and ciders and champions traditional British pubs and clubs.

“There is simply no evidence that a draconian alcohol ban will stop the spread of Covid-19. What is clear is that our pub culture is being used as a convenient scapegoat for the spread of the pandemic.

“This is a huge blow for businesses in the beer, cider and pubs sector that have invested thousands to make their venues Covid-secure and are now being hit at what would normally be their busiest time of the year.

“The Welsh Government must publish the evidence that serving alcohol has been a factor in spreading the virus to justify these devastating restrictions and offer adequate financial support for the affected businesses. Otherwise, we risk losing Welsh pubs forever.”

Mr Drakeford said new measures are necessary or there could be between 1,000 and 1,700 preventable deaths this winter.

But the Welsh Government has faced pressure this week to produce evidence to support its tough new restrictions.

On Wednesday it published a report by its scientific advisory group, TAC, referring to a recent paper issued by UK ministers that pulls together some of the information that helps scientists understand where transmission is occurring. This is evidence First Minister Professor Drakeford and his colleagues looked at when deciding on new laws.

Plaid Cymru maintains that the Welsh Government has failed to answer questions about the decision, while the Tories claimed Welsh customers will instead simply go across the border.

Ministers, meanwhile, have been accused of showing "disrespect" to the Welsh Parliament because its members will not get a chance to vote on the latest coronavirus restrictions before pubs close.

An opposition request for a debate was denied by the Senedd's presiding officer. Elin Jones said a vote would be held in the chamber next Tuesday.

The Welsh Government is facing calls to produce more evidence to support the restrictions, including from its own backbenches.