PENARTH unsurprisingly had a buzz about it on Friday.
The coastal town is about to welcome visitors again after it was announced the stay local restrictions are to be lifted on the same day it was named among the top seaside resorts in the country.
The town was named among two other seaside resorts – Aberdyfi and Cleddau Estuary, in the Sunday Times Best Place to Live 2021.
People at Penarth seafront on Friday
Tracey Scott and Debra Cooper, at Penarth seafront on Friday
After the changes announced on Friday, coming into effect from Saturday, the news will undoubtedly draw crowds similar to those which led to police closing the road along the seafront at Christmas.
The stay local rule is to be lifted, and all self-contained holiday accommodation settings in Wales can reopen to single households or bubbles, while six people from two households will be able to meet and exercise outdoors.
Walking along the Esplanade on Friday, it’s clear residents are concerned over what is to come.
Customers asked Darren Lane at Seasons bar what he thought of the new changes, and discussed a potential repeat of the high numbers which some residents say drove them away earlier this year.
Darren Lane outside Seasons bar at the Esplanade
While traders need a boost, Mr Lane said there must be a balance to protect the public at Wales’ most popular getaways.
“It was weird at Christmas seeing the road closed, and it hit trade for sure, but you have to understand it and you have to adapt,” he said.
“We’re fortunate that we opened in July with the purpose of serving through a window, so we’ve been able to remain open for much of the period since. That passing trade is something we rely on, and we’re blessed to be in a great location.
“The problem is, when people have a drink they forget about social distancing.”
Asked what he thinks of the latest changes, he said: “It’s so important we try and get open outdoors as quickly as we can, more so for people in more remote areas where people are unlikely to drop by for a takeaway.
“For the good of the industry we need the beer gardens to open as soon as possible. I can’t see any reason why that wouldn’t be being spoken about now.
“Perhaps there’s something we don’t know. If that is the case, then come out and say it because none of us want a third wave – that would kill businesses. The critical thing is we can have an uninterrupted summer.”
Is he expecting the high numbers some of his customers are predicting this weekend?
“Yes, probably – there has been a buzz since they let people travel locally, so I’d expect another rise in numbers again.
“We need to be careful for our residents. We are a public service and we don’t want to cause trouble. Traders have got to remember that.”
Residents and friends Tracey Scott and Debra Cooper have enjoyed visiting the unusually quiet beach at weekdays through the pandemic, but said they will avoid the seafront this weekend.
“I hope people continue to be weary,” Ms Scott, who lives alone at her home in Llandough, said. “But it seems to me recently people have stopped social distancing as much.
“I come here with friends and family sometimes three times a week, but I have to avoid it on weekends now.
“There are just hordes of people not keeping to social distancing rules. It’s a great shame.
“I walked with my mother here not long ago and was being bumped into by people. I can’t put myself at risk, and I can’t put others at risk.
“It’s so difficult because I live alone and I keep away from people I’d very much like to hug. Then someone comes and brushes past me. I know it sounds odd, but you do feel almost violated when that happens.
“It’s difficult, because I really do want the businesses to thrive here and I would like to support them on the weekends.
“My message to people would be ‘give it time, and let’s play it safe – don’t all rush at once’.”
Ms Scott’s son and his partner, in their twenties, are also avoiding weekend trips to the seafront due to her son having asthma.
Ms Cooper said: “For months now I’ve only gone out in the week because it gets so busy. It’s strange – the nice weather comes and the residents keep out the way.”
Hugh Pickford, who owns Pickford’s Gallery and Bar With Rooms on the seafront, says he feels for residents, and it’s become difficult for traders to police overcrowding.
“It’s probably bred by us not being able to open indoors and police the situation ourselves,” he said.
Social distancing signs remain after the road had to be temporarily closed due to people packing the Esplanade over Christmas
“At the moment people come and get a takeaway and go across the road. The problem is that’s what everyone is doing. It doesn’t look great at times. But what can we do?
“Over Christmas it looked almost like a carnival atmosphere to be honest.
“I’d like to look on the bright side. The seafront has really seen a revival in the last couple of years. Even at 8am now Piotr at Stol Coffee draws a crowd here. It’s nice to see.”
That revival is continuing this weekend too as a new café opens inside the Pier Pavilion.
The new rules mean the Pickfords can open their rooms to all people in Wales again.
“We’ve not had much interest at the moment in the rooms,” he said. “People booked for April and then cancelled when they realised it was room service only. People don’t seem to want to eat off the premises or in their rooms, so that’s hitting us a bit.
“We’re looking forward to the summer. With staycation season likely to be ahead of us, it should be a great place to be.”
What you said
Residents have been responding when asked what they thought of the new changes.
Jo Broad, from Blackwood, predicted: “People will go crazy. Of course we need our lives back or at least some sort of normality. The beaches will be full again.
“Let’s hope people will be sensible, not go crazy, and let’s hope for safety, or I think there might be a summer lockdown coming.”
Newport resident Lisa Edwards said: “People need to stop hiding behind the government. We are in charge of our own destiny and we have to resume some normality.
“To do this, we need to be allowed to resume living, but sensibly. It’s people flouting new rules that will cause a second wave.”
Claire Dunning said: “Waiting for the next lockdown. People will take liberties. Can you imagine what it will be like out and about this weekend?”