IT WAS a New Year’s Eve to forget for many pubs, clubs, bars, and restaurants in Gwent with plenty pulling down the shutters before the clock struck 12.

That’s because the Welsh Government has introduced a series of restrictions that have specifically targeted hospitality businesses, with the aim of stalling the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Wales has moved back into Alert Level Two, which means nightclubs are closed, table service and the ‘rule of six’ has returned for pubs and bars with mask-wearing also compulsory in these settings unless sat down.

Free Press Series: People out enjoying New Year's Eve in Bristol. Picture: Ollie BarnesPeople out enjoying New Year's Eve in Bristol. Picture: Ollie Barnes

But no less than 30 miles away in Bristol, pubs, bars, and clubs were packed with punters making the most of England’s less severe restrictions and welcoming in the new year in pre-covid fashion.

The Argus has been speaking to hospitality venues in Newport and Gwent to get their thoughts on what many were hoping would be one their busiest nights of the year.

Kelly Piper’s pub, The Scrum Half, opened in August last year in the Maindee area of Newport. She said the desperately quiet scenes on New Year’s Eve cost her a lot of money.

“My pub is usually thriving on the weekend, but everybody just fled to Bristol,” Ms Piper said.

“But we were lucky if we had about five people in here on New Year’s Eve. In fact, it was so quiet we decided to shut at eight. We had two bar staff on so that’s wages that we paid out unnecessarily.

“We’d planned for a big night; we’d booked a DJ and were planning to stay open until 3am.

“But Boxing Day was exactly the same for us – we just didn’t have many people through the door.”

Ms Piper says she’s worried that any more restrictions could have severe consequences on the business.

“It’s really sad, we’re all going into this new year financially uncertain,” she added.

“It’s not just the money, mentally it’s incredibly stressful for us as business owners.”

Free Press Series: The Commercial Inn was 'unusually quiet' on New Year's Eve. Google MapsThe Commercial Inn was 'unusually quiet' on New Year's Eve. Google Maps

It was a similar story at The Commercial Inn in Pontymister, Caerphilly County, with manager Mark Thomas saying it was unusually quiet.

“It’s not the type of new year’s were usually used to,” Mr Thomas said.

“I just think people are afraid to come out at the moment – the Welsh Government and the restrictions have really scared people.

“But it’s disappointing to see the scenes in England.”

There were also plenty of venues in Gwent that didn't open at all. 

Le Pub cancelled its evening plans over concerns around policing the restrictions in place. 

One of Newport’s most popular bars, Tiny Rebel, closed for New Year’s Eve because it didn’t have enough staff.

Free Press Series: The Angel Inn had to close due to staff testing positive for covid. Google MapsThe Angel Inn had to close due to staff testing positive for covid. Google Maps

Similarly, The Angel Inn in Grosmont, Monmouthshire, was forced to cancel its plans after a positive covid case for one of its staff.

It’s landlady, Chloe Skinner, said it was a loss considering the next pub down the road, The Bridge Inn, is in England.

“We knew of people that were heading out and enjoying New Year’s Eve free of restrictions across the border.

“I’m sure The Bridge Inn faced a lot of difficult choices about what they had to put in place and who they accepted into the pub.”

But there was some joy for The Kings Arms in Abergavenny, who posted on their Facebook page that they were fully booked for its New Year’s Eve celebrations and were even serving drinks to people sat outside due to the unusually warm weather on the night.