Inside Pontypridd’s bars and pubs on the first Friday night of lockdown – Katie-Ann Gupwell

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Quiet and deserted, Pontypridd looked very different to the Friday nights towns and cities across Wales know and love.

And it was the same picture inside the pubs and bars as well.

That’s because Friday night, September 18, was the first one since Rhondda Cynon Taf went into lockdown with an 11pm curfew for all licensed premises in the borough.

The local lockdown restrictions came into force in RCT from 6pm on Thursday, September 17 due to the rise in coronavirus cases in the area.

It followed the neighbouring authority of Caerphilly which is also in lockdown.

It was approaching 8pm at Barinis Bar, Lounge & Restaurant on Friday when we arrived to a pretty empty pub.

Usually, around this time of year, the pub would be bustling with students and drinkers of all ages.

To be honest, you’d be lucky to get a table as people prepared to bring in the weekend and play some tunes on the jukebox.

Three or maybe four couples were spread around the large room when we arrived.

It was almost silent and several chairs were empty.



Inside Barinis Bar, Lounge and Restaurant



Barinis now has a new outdoor terrace

As you enter the bar you’re greeted with a sign requesting that you wear a mask when you walk in, but you’re permitted to take it off when you sit down.

We walked towards Adrian Roach who has managed the bar for around 30 years.

“You’ve just missed all my customers,” he said as he invited us to sit down at a social distance.

He told us the staff would probably be getting ready to close by 9pm if the footfall didn’t pick up.

Adrian said this has become normal over the past few weeks since the bar re-opened on August 3.

“People’s habits have changed,” he said.

“What you’re getting is people try to come out, but they’re having something to eat, something to drink and then they will all be gone by 9pm.”

Pointing outside, Adrian said: “We built that area so we have a beer garden and an outside terrace now.

“During the Eat Out to Help Out scheme it was really busy.”

Barinis is a really big pub, The doors are open to allow air to circulate, tables are distanced safely apart and instruction signs and cleaning stations are dotted around.

The upstairs area hasn’t re-opened yet but, in time, it’s hoped this space will be able to be utilised again.

When asked about the effect the curfew will have on business, Adrian said: “We can still go to 11pm, and then next week it will be down to 10pm.

“We are quite happy with it as people will have food, a drink and they will be gone then by around 10pm.

“The less people stay out, the less people drink. It’s really hard.”



Rebecca Salt, left, puts her make-up on after a shift in the kitchen at Barinis

The changes over the past few months have also brought many challenges.

Staff said it can sometimes be hard to get people to follow the rules, and cancellations continue to be made for functions that just aren’t possible.

Barinis, as well as being a popular drinking and eating spot, is also known for hosting events like parties and baby showers.

Like many businesses in the same position, this side of hosting has now gone completely out of the window with groups being banned from meeting indoors.

Adrian said they are in quite a lucky position as they serve food so he is still getting bookings for people to visit even if they don’t stay to drink late into the evening.

Discussing life running the business, he said: “Things will never be the same again for this business and lots of other businesses.

“We just have to try to appeal and make our mark.

“The pubs will definitely change.”

Not too far down the road at Duffy’s, in Maesycoed, there was a little bit more life.



Regulars enjoy a drink in Duffy’s Bar




Around 20 people were in the pub socially distanced and many of them were wearing masks.

Signs around the room informed you of various rules and there were also sanitising stations.

It’s probably safe to say this is the first time the ex-servicemen’s club has looked like this since it first opened its doors in 1968.

Behind the bar you’ll find steward of the club, Mark Weyman, 33, who is protected by a big screen.

When asked about his thoughts on the curfew, Mark said: “What we have found is it’s a bit busy in the afternoon and not so busy in the nights.

“A lot of the regulars are not coming out later at night and a lot haven’t even come back out because they are older and because of the risk associated with it.

“It wasn’t the best news for us, although they have allowed us to stay open.”

As Mark serves people at the bar, customers can be seen using the queuing system that’s marked out on the floor.



Mark Weyman behind the screen at Duffy’s Bar

One of the regulars also told me people have to bring their own cues if they want to play pool, and all the balls must be disinfected after each use.

It’s your standard valleys local where there’s a mix of ages all sitting down, having a pint, while sitting two metres apart.

When asked about the faces they expect to see at Duffy’s, Mark said: “We have 50s and 60s in the afternoon.

“Our usual youngsters – who normally come – and a couple of them wear a mask.”

While you’d normally expect to see younger people walking into Pontypridd town centre after a few pints at Duffy’s that familiar scene isn’t really visible anymore.

With pub crawls being off the cards, and people just seeming to not want to go out as much, the desire to stay at home could well and truly be seen in Pontypridd town centre on Friday night.

By 10pm the weather was turning cooler and the streets were becoming more quiet and deserted.

Opposite the train station the lights were on at Wetherspoons, Skinny Dog and Player’s Bar but the scenes were far from normal.



Bar and door staff stand ready for customers

In February music would be blaring and people would be eager to take to the dance floor to bring in the weekend, but lockdown has brought a lot of changes.

No more than four tables were occupied in most of the pubs, and bouncers were firmly fixed on the doors checking that people who entered together lived in the same household.

This was being done, of course, because people in RCT aren’t permitted to meet people who they don’t live with indoors as a part of the lockdown restrictions.

There were no queues, no hustle and bustle and very little noise.

It’s nowhere near the night out you’d remember pre-lockdown.

The liveliest place in the town centre was probably Alfred’s Bar and Grill where people could be seen enjoying drinks outside in the nice weather.



Manager Scott Gareth James inside Alfreds



A man heads to the bar at Alfreds wearing a face covering

A few others could also be seen having a relaxed drink in the bar.

Bar manager Scott Gareth James, 24, chatted while wearing a face covering and PPR about the curfew imposed on pubs in RCT.

“Normally on a standard week night we would close at 11pm anyway. But on a Friday and Saturday we have a license for 2pm.

“The weekend would normally be busier.”

The doors remained open and tables were placed at a distance apart as people sat and enjoyed a few drinks as the evening headed towards closing time.



Drinking up at 11pm at Barinis

But Scott admitted it had been mostly families visiting during the evening as the new restrictions limit friends having the ability to meet at indoor spaces.

When asked what sort of customers had stopped by since the lockdown measures came into place, Scott said: “Couples, families – that sort of thing.

“We have been as strict as possible.

“When people arrive we do the track and trace.

“We’d usually take about 200 with upstairs, but we can’t now, so we moved some of the seating for the time being down here.”



People make their way home at 11pm



Cleaning up at closing time at Barinis

Meanwhile at the taxi rank drivers shouted to us saying that business has been dead.

One said: “Some of the boys have probably made a fiver tonight.”

The taxi queue, where people have been known to wait up to two hours for a taxi home at peak times, was no more.

Around six or seven drivers were dressed in PPE, ready to take people home, but not one person came by in the time we spent there.

The rank, much like the majority of the town, was ghostly apart from the noise of teenagers that could be heard as they walked and rode bikes through the town centre late into the evening.



Taxi drivers wait for customers at the taxi rank



The streets remain quiet

Around 15 to 20 young people could be seen gathering in the town centre during the couple of hours we were there which was, arguably, more people than you’d see if you peered through the window of many of the local pubs.

As the clock rapidly ticked towards 11pm a Ponty night out was nothing like you’d seen pre-lockdown.

Most places were serving no more than around 10 people and the goodbyes were peaceful and calm – apart from the odd drunken squeal.

We left Taff Street where the atmosphere remained calm, peaceful and, quite honestly, deserted.

Will it stay this way as the lockdown continues? Only time will tell.



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