MONDAY isn’t traditionally a day people look forward to, but for many in Wales next week it will become their new favourite day of the week, as the hospitality industry reopens.

Monday, April 26, will be a landmark day for many pub landlords, hoteliers and café and restaurant owners, who will finally be able to officially reopen their premises – outdoors at least – for the first time in well over four months. The Welsh Government, meanwhile, will further relax rules this weekend on the amount of households that can meet up outdoors, which is sure to make life ever easier come Monday.

Hopefully, in time, Monday will come to signify a day that the coronavirus pandemic finally began to dissipate.

And yet, there is still much confusion and uncertainty surrounding the hospitality sector – with many business owners wondering if they can recover from the mental and financial toll of what’s been a devastating year for the industry.

For Guilsfield couple Adam and Louise Evans, it’s been a rough start to life as pub landlords. They only took over the Kings Head last September. Less than two months later they were shut as Wales entered a third lockdown – one that wiped out a traditionally raucous Christmas period and has lasted nearly five months.

“We took over in September and it has understandably been a rollercoaster since then,” said the couple, who have used the quiet period to make big changes to take advantage of only being able to open outdoors next Monday.

“We’ve made big changes during the third lockdown, the beer garden has been extended to allow us more space, which will be great with the latest restrictions.

“The frustration really is that we have had to wait longer than England to open, we just wish it was an even playing field.

“But we can’t wait to see our customers back and hopefully the weather will be kind to us.”

Excitement mixed with trepidation seems to be the overriding feeling ahead of the big day for most landlords, including John Fitzpatrick, landlord at Llanidloes’ Crown & Anchor, who can’t help but feel weighed down by the debt, lack of grant aid and lost stock.

“We’re frustrated, excited, apprehensive, despondent all in one go I guess,” said John.

“The grants have left most pubs with a pile of debt that we hope we can recoup some of with a bumper summer. Despondent due to the lack of start-up grants compared to England. We had to scrap most of our stock over two sites and don't have the money to replace it.

“We normally carry out ongoing maintenance on the pubs as we go, but because we haven't had any income at all the investment has come out of our own pockets, not pub profits.

“However, our garden is now looking fabulous with a new fence, grass area and marquee with a decking area. The facade is getting painted this week ready for opening with a few little surprises for our customers. We think they will love it and we are excited to show them.”

While pub customers can’t wait to get back in the boozer come Monday, it’s hard to gauge whether the glasses are half empty or half full from a landlord’s point of view – with the Welsh Government withholding the next round of restart grants until at least after the Senedd election on May 6.

It’s a politically motivated caveat that has angered many. “These specific funds have been given to the Welsh Government from Westminster but not released to Welsh hospitality. How can that be?” ask Simon and Alison Mason, landlords at the Prince Llewelyn pub in Cilmery, just outside Builth Wells.

“It’s incredibly difficult to reopen outside with no help in the outlay for marquees, heaters etc. Even restocking our cellars is a very daunting prospect. It’s an expensive gamble for us all. But we are expected to open so have had to find the cash from elsewhere.”

Rory Owen and his staff at Builth’s White Horse were praised by authorities last summer for going “above and beyond” in their efforts to reopen safely in the grip of the pandemic. But he doesn’t feel the efforts of businesses is being met by those in control.

“We’re excited for what should be a busy week, with the bank holiday weekend approaching, but there’s lots of frustration and we just hope the authorities work with us,” he said.

“Last year we had lots of visits from the likes of police and Powys County Council, who were always happy with what we were doing, they said we went above and beyond, there were no issues.

“But there’s always more stipulations which lead to extra costs. But, we’ll work with it. We’ll do what we have to do get back open.”