Interior shot of Head of Steam. Photo credit: Zeenia Naqvee

Are city centre drinking holes drying up this January?

Pubs and bars in the heart of the city are adapting to the cost-of-living crisis in Dry January

WITH the cost-of-living crisis hitting us hard, it’s no wonder that fewer people can afford to support local businesses.

Supermarket essentials now cost a lot more than they used to, leaving bars and pubs low down on the lists of priorities, leaving them particularly hard hit by the struggling economy.

The City Arms

Aled Jones pictured pulling a pint. Photo credit: Zeenia Naqvee

Aled Jones, a 52-year-old bartender of The City Arms, said: “People are stupidly skint after Christmas, so January tends to be quieter anyway.”

But he feels confident about The City Arms’ future as it’s one of the city’s oldest pubs, having first opened its doors in 1876.

The introduction of a function room helps them to thrive during these economically turbulent times.

“Our fully decked out function room receives dozens of enquiries for hire every day,” says Aled.

This is hired out for work parties and brings in a lot of profit for the independent business which doesn’t serve food.

It’s also a firm favourite among rugby fans, located right opposite the Principality Stadium.

They do particularly well during the Six Nations and don’t expect anything different this year with the rugby union competition just around the corner.

Also, most of the pub’s customers are pensioners, making up for lost time during Covid.

“It’s critical for them to get out and meet their friends, especially after the loneliness felt during lockdown,” Aled says.


NQ64 bartender Tyder Howells. Photo credit: Zeenia Naqvee

Trendy arcade bar NQ64 is one of St Mary Street’s newest additions, opening in November 2021.

‘NQ’ stands for Northern Quarter, reflecting its Manchester heritage and ‘64’ refers to the old Nintendo console.

Bartender Tyder Howells, 24, feels that the business is coping well with the economic climate:

“Most bars go quiet in January anyway so it’s hard to tell whether that’s attributed to Dry January and the cost-of-living crisis or not.”

Tyder explains that the bar has a very varied demographic, drawing in both drinkers and seasoned gamers.

“Our business knows that a lot of people give up alcohol in January so have made a special alcohol-free menu,” explains Tyder.

Many customers only buy non-alcoholic drinks as they come for the arcade.

“And to ease off cost-of-living pressure we do offer student discount.”

Its super central location means it gets to benefit from thousands of concertgoers who visit the Cardiff International Arena.

“The 1975 are playing tonight so we’re expecting good business.”

The City Arms and NQ64 have managed to avoid plummeting profits this Dry January, but other establishments have not been so fortunate.

Head of Steam

Inside the Head of Steam. Photo credit: Zeenia Naqvee

The City Arms and NQ64 have managed to avoid plummeting profits this Dry January, but other establishments have not been so fortunate.

A craft beer chain, the Head of Steam’s offerings include artisan beer, mostly attracting customers aged between 25 to 55.

But 21-year-old sales manager and Sheffield native Chloe Jackson describes all the measures she’s had to take to keep the business afloat during both Dry January and the cost-of-living crisis.

“We’ve cut our live band from performing this month as our turnover is lower in this economy,” said Chloe.

“The number of people we serve has decreased as they mostly came for the live band that we’ve had to cut.”

The brewery has also amended its opening times to cut costs.

“We now open at 3pm Monday to Wednesday instead of 12 noon because we can’t afford to stay open so early midweek.”

The Head of Steam enjoys a close relationship with nearby bars.

“There’s a sense of solidarity in hospitality right now. We’re all struggling to some extent so it’s nice when we get local bartenders popping in on their breaks,” said Chloe.