With the majority of North Wales resorts facing new local lockdowns as of 1 October, Coinslot spoke to Craig Harker of Les Harker’s Amusements in Rhyl about the impact the measures will have on both the arcade and the town itself.
In the wake of multiple local lockdowns coming into effect across North Wales on 1 October, many seafront leisure businesses are facing an uncertain future, with both residents and tourists under strict movement restrictions.
In an exclusive interview with Coinslot, Rhyl arcadian Craig Harker of Les Harker’s Amusements spoke of the immediate effects of the stringent new measures, and the possibility of a “long cold winter” for the Welsh seaside.
“In the 35 to 40 years I’ve worked with my dad I’ve never known a weekend as quiet,” said Harker, speaking on 6 October. “Whatever the weather we always get at least some visitors from out of town, or holiday makers from the camps and regulars who come every weekend, but none of these were allowed to come.”
“Since the weekend we’ve started our winter jobs, stripping and cleaning the machines to give the staff enough hours, but some of them are going to have to go back on furlough and the new scheme when that starts or I won’t be able to keep them all on.”
With Welsh seaside favourites such as Llandudno, Talacre and Colwyn Bay featuring prominently in the press for the overnight loss of a slowly-recovering tourism industry, Harker noted that his hometown of Rhyl is in “exactly the same position.”
“It’s going to be a long cold winter. I could see us closing, something my dad hasn’t done in over 50 years.”
Though Harker accepts that “some restrictions need to be made and borders drawn,” he added “it seems a little silly that customers I have that live a mile away, albeit in a different county, can’t visit.”
The seemingly arbitrary restrictions on local travel come on top of growing concerns over the financial future for the arcade, with the system of grants and reliefs available to small businesses like Harker’s essentially exhausted.
“After the initial lockdown help of grants, rent (RATE)relief, furlough and bounce back loans (which were all needed greatly) there doesn’t seem to be anything else available,” said Harker. “Because we are still open there is more expense with electric bills etc.”
“A great help would be rate relief carried on into next year and also the MGD reduced to 5 percent, but we have already had letters from our MP saying this is very unlikely.”
For too long Wales’ seaside towns have been on the edge of the economy as well as the country, now is the time for the Welsh government to invest in their future. Its response, though, has been criticised for being inconsistent and, at crucial times, incoherent. For over half a century Harker’s has been delivering entertainment in one of north Wales’ primary seaside resorts; in less than half a year, it’s wondering whether there will be a seaside resort on the North Wales coast.