Why Sunday is staying dry in Dwyfor

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The Independent Online
WHILE the rest of England and Wales today contemplates a boozy afternoon thanks to all-day Sunday pub opening, in the Llyn Peninsula, bar doors will remain firmly bolted as Welsh Nonconformist tradition still holds sway.

Once, most of Wales was dry on a Sunday, but referendums and powerful campaigns led by drink and tourism interests have changed that. Only the peninsula's Dwyfor, which includes the tourist resorts of Porthmadog and Pwllheli, still holds out.

Pubs in the rest of the country will be able to serve alcohol uninterrupted from noon to 10.30pm, and supermarkets and off-licences will also enjoy relaxed licensing rules.

William Arthur Evans, a 65-year-old local councillor, has been the mainstay of the fight to keep Dwyfor dry. He is not teetotal, but would never dream of spending a night in a pub. "It would be a waste of time and money," he says.

Sunday is for chapel and the family, he believes. If the pubs opened in Dwyfor on a Sunday, it would "open the floodgates for drugs and I consider alcohol to be a drug. It would be a move in the wrong direction."

Mr Evans acknowledges that the pull of the chapel and the way of life in this rural, staunchly Welsh-speaking part of the world are not what they were. "Money seems to be the only thing of any value nowadays," he said. "That is what is doing away with Sundays. How many people will have to be working in pubs and hotels on a Sunday if the rules are changed?"

Margaret Williams, receptionist at the Royal Sportsman Hotel, Porthmadog, relishes the drinking divide in Wales. "At the moment it gives me a chance to have a day off, and because I live in a wet area I go for a lunchtime drink with the family." But she believes younger people have rejected chapel-going on a Sunday and says: "It is not as though the churches will close because the pubs are open. People can make their own choice."

For the owners of pubs, hotels and restaurants, the refusal of Dwyfor to adopt all-day opening is a blow. "If we could open, it would be one of our busiest days, not just for drinks but meals as well," said Hefin Jones, owner of the Royal Goat Hotel at Beddgelert. "This is not Welsh culture or tradition. The churches are dying anyway."

There is also the tricky task of explaining to tourists that they cannot get a drink - a problem made harder by an anomaly that means that hotel residents can be served alcohol. Members of clubs also evade the ban.

Those involved in the tourism and catering trades are preparing a campaign for a referendum on the issue in November next year. They argue that drink- driving is being encouraged because people head across the Dwyfor boundary in search of a pint.

But Meurig Royles, chief executive of Dwyfor District Council, feels that the quaint licensing laws, like the language, help to set the area apart. "This is still a beautiful area. We have fine beaches and more than half the district is in the Snowdonia National Park. That's got to be worth more than a lager on a Sunday."

However, drinkers may not have to wait much longer for their Sunday tipple. Local government reorganisation means that next year's vote will include not just Dwyfor, but the already wet districts of Meirionnydd and Arfon as well.