PUBS in Wrexham, Denbighshire and Flintshire have missed out on a chance to make up for lost time after an extremely difficult year - but they are all geared up to welcome customers back.

Outdoor hospitality - including pubs and restaurants - will be able to open from April 26.

But many associated with the industry feel that pubs being allowed to open for the Easter weekend would have given a boost to their businesses and the well-being of people in the community.

Brian Vardy, chairman of Chester and South Clwyd Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said: "I'm sure they will be disappointed. They have been looking forward to Easter because it is a peak time for them. It was a chance to make up for lost time.

"We must remember that a lot of pubs have spent money on protective equipment, putting up screens and all sorts of other things. So you are kind of adding insult to injury. You tell them in 2020 that they can only open if they do all these things and, not long after, they are told 'none of that money you've spent makes any difference and you can't open'."

He added: "I think the whole hospitality industry has been treated badly. I'm not advocating any ignoring of the regulations, but I don't think there is any evidence of covid transmission in the hospitality industry.

"Something that CAMRA would say is that pubs are community spaces. They don't just carer to people who want to go for a drink - in most pubs there are allsorts of clubs and societies that meet there. People who maybe go out once a week can meet with people in the pub."

The new outside area at the Burntwood in Drury

The new outside area at the Burntwood in Drury

Landlord of the Burntwood in Drury Andrew Griffiths added: "Who knows when the time's right? It's annoying, it's been a tough year, but personally I'd rather wait a little bit longer than coming out too soon and going back into another lockdown."

He has invested in making sure the pub can open safely.

The new outside area at the Burntwood in Drury

The new outside area at the Burntwood in Drury

He said: "We have expanded quite a lot. We have a large outdoor area with decking and individual pod sheds. We've invested quite a lot. Spending all the money and not seeing people use it was disappointing, but we're looking forward to welcoming people back now and having them appreciate it. It will be good to see people enjoying themselves and having a bit of normality back.

"I just want people to follow the rules, even if its for a few months. If people do their part hopefully we can get back to normal quicker."

Another blow to pubs in border communities like Deeside and Wrexham is that pubs in Chester and the rest of England will be able to offer outdoor hospitality two weeks ahead of them.

Mr Vardy said: "It's going to lead to problems. People who live near the border will be tempted to get across so they can have a drink.

"To avoid any temptation, I think England and Wales should coordinate."

He added that pubs should have been allowed to open earlier.

He said: "It makes common sense. People can into supermarket and walk along the shelves of beers, wines and spirits. They can pick them up, look at it and read the label, and if they don't want it they can put it back. But they can't go into a pub to buy a drink. But you can buy supermarket drink and sit in the park or a garden where there is no supervision. But in a pub, even if you have restrictions, there is supervised environment with people whose livelihoods depend on them following the rules."

The new outside area at the Burntwood in Drury

The new outside area at the Burntwood in Drury

Andrew, like many landlords and pub managers in Wales, is preparing to welcome customers back in just 20 days time.

He said: "We are starting to plan and get everything in place to move forward.

"We've lost a few staff, they've gone to other jobs. We've had to employ new staff and train them. We have to start look at getting all the stocks in again because it all went down the drain pretty much.

"We need to get all the new relevant signage in place so we can open the doors and crack on."

Last week, First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined a series of dates for easing lockdown measures to take Wales from Alert Level 4 to 3.

Mr Drakeford said he considered bringing forward the reopening of outdoor hospitality in line with England’s date, but was warned by scientific and medical advisers that doing so risked a rise in transmissions.

“The advice was clear cut. The risks of doing so outweighed any rewards because we are opening such a lot of things on April 12 in Wales already,” he said.

“The advice was we really did need to wait two weeks to see whether those actions were having the effect of driving the virus numbers up again.”