The hospitality sector is facing a wave of cancellations in the run-up to Christmas, as customers fear surging Covid-19 cases.
What should have been one of the busiest times of the year has instead been replaced with last-minute cancellations and forced closures, as people embark on self-imposed lockdowns in response to rising Omicron case numbers.
Despite the Government implementing a series of Plan B restrictions, such as the return to working from home, the wearing of face masks, isolation rules and Covid Passes, no lockdown has been re-imposed despite cases reaching their highest level since the pandemic began.
One London pub manager shared “it’s hard to see the end of the tunnel” after several customers cancelled their bookings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“We’re a small business and a local pub. Most of our customers are local,” Natalia, Manager of The Prince Regent in London told i.
“Customers don’t even come inside anymore. They all sit outside and wear masks.
“They’re very respectful of the rules, but it’s also scaring people away.”
Before the pandemic this would have been a place for groups to drink together until last orders but now people only stay for a drink or two at most, she said.
“It’s midday on a Saturday right now – we should have three or four groups of people but it’s nearly empty.”
Pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants have already seen trade fall by a third and are expecting a further 22 per cent drop in bookings for December.
The UK reported more than 90,000 new Covid cases in another record daily total on Friday, and latest figures show more than 14,000 confirmed cases of Omicron.
It comes after Rishi Sunak flew back from a work trip to California early for crisis talks with business leaders concerned about the impact of measures, especially on the hospitality sector.
The Chancellor met virtually with the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the British Chambers of Commerce on Friday afternoon.
The groups raised concerns about the impact of cancellations across hospitality in the run-up to Christmas, and the importance of clear messaging from the Government.
Other sectors have been impacted, with London’s Wellcome Collection museum shutting its doors “until further notice” on Friday, a step beyond existing guidance, citing the increasing Covid-19 risk.
Theatre has been another industry hit by outbreaks and cancellations.
The National Theatre has cancelled three of its shows until after Christmas “due to company illness”.
Meanwhile, the Cabaret revival starring Eddie Redmayne has paused performances over a Covid outbreak, while Hamilton at the Victoria Palace has cancelled performances to Sunday due to Covid absences.
The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre has similarly cancelled all shows until 21 December, while Andrew Lloyd-Webber has paused his problem-plagued Cinderella musical citing “Covid-related absences”.