As Welsh bars, pubs and restaurants prepare to reopen from 26 April, one independent bar owner from Mumbles has been busy behind the scenes since closing his doors on 11th December 2020.
Laurence Winmill, owner of Cakes & Ale on Mumbles’ Newton Road, said he and his team can’t wait to see their customers again.
“I opened Cakes & Ale for one reason – to give people the best possible place to meet friends and family for good food and drink and good times,” he says.
“It’s been soul-destroying to not be able to do that, and I’m a hospitality man not a property developer! But I firmly believe that you have to always keep improving your offer to customers – even when we haven’t been able to open – so we’ve been busy making improvements all-round.”
The bar, which takes its name from Shakespeare’s phrase meaning ‘the good life’ in his play, Twelfth Night, opened in August 2019 and soon became a local favourite before the first lockdown in March 2020.
“We worked really hard on getting the food and drinks right, constantly improving our offer, holding some events, all the while talking and listening to customers – everything was going really well, hard work and great fun too,” says Laurence.
“Then the pandemic hit and affected all our lives. Since opening back up in the summer our priority has, of course, been safety first as we initially offered takeaway drinks and food and installed screens inside to separate tables when the rules were relaxed. Our customers were so supportive – and the council, too, allowing us to open outside as well, so that helped enormously. We installed planters and a new awning, parasols and so on to make the outside area really pleasant.”
Since Christmas, Laurence and his team have been hard at work improving the kitchen and interiors.
“Safety is still paramount – we want our customers to feel completely at ease when they can come back inside,” he said.
“So, we have improved the ventilation with the installation of air conditioning and new windows and refreshed our staff training with regard to Covid safety measures.
“We’ve also taken the opportunity to improve the aesthetic inside with a new colour scheme and flooring. Upstairs in the kitchen we’ve installed a new floor and invested in new equipment to improve production and lower energy consumption, including fridges, dishwashers and grills.”
While Cakes & Ale will open again from week commencing 26 April, Laurence explains it will be limited hours and just for drinks until the hospitality sector is allowed to open inside.
“We have just five tables outside seating 22, so we’ll talk to customers and see how it goes when we open. Most of all, we can’t wait to welcome people back and be part of them getting together again – safely, of course. It’s what we’re in this business for.”
Despite its rollercoaster start, the plan is to open more Cakes & Ale bars in the city and at other key locations in south Wales, he explains.
“We’ve worked really effectively to refine the Cakes & Ale concept and offer and the plan is still to roll it out further.”