The hospitality industry is having to face the reality of possible cancellations following Boris Johnson’s announcement of Covid Plan B measures, with more potentially on the way.
Within the announcement he made last week, the government has advised people to limit their social gatherings, which has seen a lot of Christmas parties cancelled.
More than 82,000 new cases were recorded on December 19 with the Omicron variant becoming an increasing concern, and pubs, bars and restaurants are taking yet another financial hit.
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Sean Hughes, a pub owner and one of the founders of Save St Albans Pubs says the recent rise in cases and advice from the government has been devastating for business.
He said: “The new restrictions haven’t really affected anyone in hospitality but what has affected hospitality is the government saying people should reduce their social gatherings.”
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‘They basically locked us down without having to pay for it’
“The biggest impact was the working from home order,” he added. “We found in St Albans once that had happened there was an immediate response of cancellations across the district and beyond.
“Over 200 people at businesses in all sectors in and around St Albans have been complaining about loss of revenue.
“This is unbelievable that we are in a situation right now, it’s like going back to March 2020 all over again.”
In just one day Sean has returned £3,000 worth of deposits, which when scaled up to how much they would have spent in the pub could equate to between £10,000 and £12,000.
Sean wants to see some financial aid given to the hospitality industry but fears with Parliament closing for the Christmas break, nothing will be done.
“We’ve been emailing everyone that we possibly can to get some support,” he said.
“We need an urgent package, Parliament shuts today and that means nothing can be discussed, we need to get the packages in place for now.
“If they are going to restart furlough, it needs to happen now.”
As well as a number of cancellations from customers, agency staff have faced a difficult time with their work being cancelled leaving them without income just before Christmas.
Sean’s pub group has faced a £200,000 hit and he claimed they cannot go through this again.
‘There’s only so much people in our industry can take’
He said: “We’re in a terrible situation, of course, we are going to get through it but we can’t accept anymore of a hit.
“I can’t believe we are having this conversation again. At the moment we are firing down the outside lane in the motorway in the dark with the lights off.”
Sean owned three pubs at the beginning of the pandemic but sold one in the summer, however that was not due to Covid.
The pubs he operates now are Dylan’s at the Kings Arms and The Boot. He said Dylan’s is down 40 per cent with other pubs in the area down 60 per cent.
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Sean has been in this industry for 25 years and not only fears for his business but also people’s mental health.
He said: “We can’t have this insane uncertainty which is hugely damaging to mental health and not just people who work.
“We had to fight so hard during the first lockdown because they didn’t have a clue.
“This is the industry and as an industry, you’ve got to love what you do, it’s not an easy job but this is another level of disaster really.
“There’s only so much people in our industry can take.”
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