A ban on beer and the fear of bankruptcy is fuelling a northern rebellion as the latest measures to tackle coronavirus are imposed.
From last night prohibition measures hit pubs and restaurants – and even those only out for a meal had to be off the premises by 6pm.
Yesterday afternoon Mark Drakeford came out for the coronavirus briefing to justify those measures – well aware of bubbling anger that has seen him barred from boozers.
While not exactly known for his stirring oratory he was more animated than usual – calling on Wales to stand together as the health situation worsens.
Mr Drakeford’s argument was that the overall Wales seven day infection rate of 250 cases per 100K of population would see it placed in Tier 3 in England – with hospitality shut and travel banned.
The problem for many in the north is that the numbers simply don’t add up and they are being punished for rocketing infection rates in the south.
The latest rolling seven day cases(up to December 3) per 100K of the population in Wales is now 252.
But there are widespread differences across the nation in the Public Health Wales figures – from 502 per 100K in Blaenau Gwent to 35 in Gwynedd.
The latest infection rate figures for other North Wales counties are 84 on Anglesey, 78 in Denbighshire, 40 in Conwy, 119 in Flintshire, and 206 in Wrexham.
They have increased but remain at a level where all but Wrexham could expect to be in Tier 1 or 2 under the tiered system over the border.
So for many the national approach simply isn’t right for the north.
The R-number (reproduction rate) has also been a matter of debate after Mr Drakeford said it could be as “high as 1.4” in Wales while the Technical Advisory Cell still have it at between 0.8 and 1.
The growing rebellion
The latest measures were described as “unjust” and “disproportionate” in a letter to the First Minister from the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, signed by close to 200 businesses.
They said they had “wiped out” any hope of a last ditch source of revenue at the end of a “disastrous year” with the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of bookings.
Now the FSB has also announced it will be writing to the First Minister to outline their concerns and said that businesses feel they have been excluded from conversations about why additional restrictions are needed in hospitality settings.
It has even seen Mark Drakeford banned by a pubwatch group in Conwy.
This reflects a fury in a hospitality sector that feels it has jumped ever growing hurdles only for the finish line to keep moving.
Despite the financial support being offered, hospitality businesses feel the economic pain inflicted on firms and their workers – often among the lowest paid in the economy – is not justified by the case numbers.
The Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd have long questioned the measures introduced by the Labour administration – opposing the firebreak in October.
But now Plaid Cymru – who have up to now been more supportive of the government during the crisis – are losing their patience, warning public trust is being eroded.
Conwy council’s Conservative leader Sam Rowlands has also put his head above the parapet by openly opposing the new measures. It remains to be seen if other leaders follow suit.
BusinessLive Wales is your new comprehensive home for business news from across Wales; from large corporates to exciting start-ups and sectors ranging from advanced manufacturing to financial and professional services.
To sign up to our breaking news and daily newsletter service CLICK HERE.
As well as our in-depth early morning newsletter, we will be sending out regular breaking news email alerts.
There is also anger at the lack of democracy – with no vote in the Senedd on the measures before they came into force.
Clwyd West Conservative MS Darren Millar said the measures had “shown contempt” for the people of North Wales.
He warned: “The decision that pubs, cafes, and restaurants cannot serve alcohol during the day and must close at 6pm will put many businesses at risk and lead to job losses across Wales.
“None of this makes sense, and the Welsh Labour-led Government has thus far failed to publish any evidence which shows that the hospitality sector is the cause of the problem in those areas of Wales where people aren’t following the rules.
“The difference in the figures is stark.
“These are significant differences showing that we do not have a Wales wide problem requiring a Wales wide solution.”
Plaid Cymru is calling for a compromise that would allow licensed premises to serve alcohol and stay open until 8pm.
Arfon MS Sian Gwenllian said: “Mark Drakeford’s draconian no-alcohol policy has hit wet-sales pubs and food pubs alike and most will be closed now until the New Year.
“That makes no sense when the same government is permitting people to go across the border to Chester and further afield with the likelihood of greater transmission of the virus as a result.
“Security and safety in a well-run Welsh pub is going to be lower risk than catching the last bus home from Chester after a night out. It might not be the only thing you catch.
“We accept it’s a difficult balancing act but this latest ruling by Mark Drakeford is wrong and Plaid Cymru is proposing a sensible compromise that enables people to stay safe and live their lives in the Christmas period.”
Plaid’s Liz Saville Roberts MP added: “There has been an understandable backlash to these new restrictions from the hospitality industry and there is now a real risk of public trust being further eroded because people cannot comprehend the logic.
“Public trust in policy depends largely on a clearly communicated logic.
“I fear that banning alcohol completely could have the opposite intended consequence of driving people to socialise at home.”
Aberconwy Conservative MS Janet Finch-Saunders wants Conwy exempt from the restrictions due to the low infection rate.
She said: “These arbitrary and disproportionate rules must be removed. Our businesses deserve better.
“The low incident rate in Conwy is a credit to all the personal sacrifices that many residents have made over recent weeks and months.
“The data proves that their efforts were not in vain, having a net positive impact and helping to save lives.
“And yet, their reward for adherence is draconian punishment.”
Welsh Government can expect fierce opposition when the measures are debated in the Senedd.
With a wafer thin majority any rebellion within their own party – like that seen over the border by Conservative MPs – could see the legislation over-turned.
Mr Drakeford’s response yesterday was that national measures would stop other parts of the nation reaching the high levels seen in south east Wales and therefore save lives – but for many it is now too bitter a pill to swallow.
The demand for a regional approach is growing ever louder.